FESTIVAL: Black Mountain’s Sourwood Festival

By D. Lanier Shook                   August 11, 2019

Its August and that means the beginning of festival season. As the weather cools down — a little bit — and before it cools down alot communities are coming out to celebrate everything from watermelons to honey. (This is where I’ll spare you from my dissertation about the vestigal influences of the late nineteeneth century agricultural culture.) And sourwood honey is exactly why I visited Black Mountain. (To buy the particular sourwood honey in the photograph below click here to visit the very well done Magnolia House website and get 10% off with your first order.

Here’s the obligatory Sourwood Honey pic for the Sourwood Honey Festival.

If you’re familiar with Black Mountain you know that State Street — aka US Highway 70— runs west to east through downtown from Swannanoa to Ridgecrest. (Or east to west from Ridgecrest to Swannanoa for those contrarians out there.) Its the road that Kilwin’s and the Dripolator are on. One block behind State Street is Sutton Avenue and that’s where the Festival began. It stretched south nearly to I-40, right behind the Shell Station across from the old BILO.

For those of you not familiar with Black Mountain let me translate. If you get off I-40 on the Black Mountain exit you’ll be on Highway 9. If you turn left you’ll go under an overpass and from that overpass for four blocks all the way to downtown. Yes, that is alot of territory and here’s a map to help you visualize it.

By the way, this entire area is well worth visiting both during the Festival and the rest of the year, too.

Okay, so was also there was a climbing wall, a boat you sat in that swung back and forth, and three other rides, but this image of the Ferris wheel behind the Grey Eagle and the North Carolina flag is so iconic I just had to use it.

The town of Black Mountain is an amazing tourist destination and they worked hard to make the Sourwood Festival more than just a festival. The Sourwood Festival was a destination event, as evidenced by the carnival rides across the railroad tracks from the depot. There was also a live music venue up on Sutton Avenue featuring local talent.

This is David and Gary Cody, who make up the surprisingly named Cody Brothers and also a slightly wilder group known as the Desperadoes who couldn’t play until 8 pm.

The Sourwood Festival wouldn’t have been possible without the businesses along Cherry Street, Sutton Avenue, Vance Avenue and the other streets in the Festival area. This area of town is definitely not “the wrong side of the tracks” as you can tell when you visit Black Mountain. The Sourwood Festival is a great time to visit Black Mountain, but these businesses are evidence there is no bad time to visit Black Mountain. There are literally too many businesses and restaurants in the area for me to mention, but for just a little taste of what’s there click here to read my article about Cherry Street.

The local businesses and restaurants laid the foundation for the Festival, but the booths and vendors are what made up the Festival itself. While time didn’t allow me to highlight — or visit — each one, here are a few that will give you a feel for just have vibrant this year’s Sourwood Festival was. Seriously, with well over a hundred — closer to two hundred there — I was hustling just to cover the ground I did. In fact after I collapsed in The Dripolator coffeehouse on State Street I was so soaked with sweat I began chilling. (I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I make for these articles. Its a hard job but somebody’s got to do it. By the way, check out the lemon cake at the Dripolator, its great.)

I want to start my mentioning First Baptist Church and their tent offering free cold water, a private baby changing station, and even a rocking chair. That’s very appropriate for a town that is the Front Porch of Western North Carolina. I actually have good friends who attend First Baptist and you can click here to visit their website for service times or listen to sermons from their pastor who is a very inspiring speaker. (I thought so when I attended.)

Next I’d like to mention Montreat’s Pack 50 Cub Scout’s Burnt Offerings Barbecue. You can click here to visit their Facebook page where they have inspiring pics of them decorating veteran grave or click here to visit their page at Christ Community Church where they have their meetings.

The real genius behind the barbecue is the little grillmaster in the middle there.

There were many artists at the Festival — unfortunately far too many for me to mention or even check out what they had to offer. One that I do want to share with you is the watercolor work from Blue Watercolor Studio. I have special respect for someone who can do good watercolor work, since I had limited success in the medium. If you like the painting below click here to visit their website.

This is Tracie Luther, the self taught founder of Blue Watercolor Studio. That painting is wayyy better than anything I ever did with watercolor.

There were quite a few ceramic artists present, but once again I didn’t have time to visit all of them. This beautiful work is from Lonesome Pine Pottery. They are actually located in Fair Play, South Carolina on I-85 near the Georgia state line and you can click here to visit their website.

Incredible glazing work there. This is less than a tenth of the work they had present.

There were alot of larger offerings there, such as furniture. This example is the work of Upstate Carolina Woodcraft from Spartanburg, South Carolina. You can click here to visit their website.

Their website says if you have seen them at a show you can get a discount. I don’t know if this article counts, but you can try.

I couldn’t walk by the Citizen Times booth without getting a picture and giving them a shoutout. I’ve spent many a Sunday flipping through their microfilm in the library — mostly looking at the comics from the forties. Click here to visit their website and stay up to date.


This next yummy feature is from the Four Sisters Bakery which will be opening this fall in Black Mountain on North Dougherty Street.

If you like this next picture of cupcakes, then you’re in luck. They come from Hey Hey Cupcake, a shop on State Street in Black Mountain. Click here to visit their website.

And let’s close with another sourwood honey picture. These are 2 ounce jars you can slip into your pocket as a sort of holdout when you just have to have honey. You can buy them from Revis Russian Apiaries right over the mountain in Marion and you can visit their website by clicking here.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about the Sourwood Festival as much as I enjoyed visiting it and writing about it. There’s one day left in the Festival, but if you can’t make it they will return next year. And don’t forget to click here and visit the home page of the Black Mountain chamber of commerce. This truly is the Little Town That Rocks and there is so much more to do here the other 363 days of the year.

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