Traditional Appalachian crafts, food, music, games, and storytelling will be part of Mountain Gateway Museum’s 32nd Annual Pioneer Day festival to be held Saturday, April 23, in Old Fort.

This fun-filled, family-oriented event will kick off at 10:00 a.m. and run until 5 p.m. on the museum’s grounds at the intersection of Catawba Avenue and Water Street, just a quarter-mile off Interstate 40 at Exit 73 in Old Fort. Festival admission is free, and parking will be available in the lot at the end of Water Street.

Begun in 1984 to celebrate and help preserve the history, heritage, and traditional lifestyle of people in western North Carolina’s mountains, Pioneer Day features displays and demonstrations of vintage farm tools and equipment, antique cars, animals, wagon rides, children’s games, exhibits, and much, much more.

Two bluegrass bands—Possum Creek and Jonah Riddle & the Carolina Express—will perform at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively, in the museum’s creek-side amphitheater. Brothers N Christ, an African-American gospel group new to Pioneer Day this year, will take the amphitheater’s stage at 1:00 p.m., and Friendship Dulcimers will play old-time favorites on the museum’s front porch at noon.

Traditional craftspeople—some of whom are long-familiar faces at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh and the Mountain State Fair in Fletcher—will demonstrate their skills throughout the day on April 23. Among the crafts to be seen will be spinning, weaving, dyeing, blacksmithing, rug hooking, quilting, woodworking, drawing & painting, gourd art, apple butter making, basket making, broom making, jewelry making, corn shuck dolls, and others. Vendors also will have crafts for sale, including English Farmstead Cheese of Marion, which will be a first-time Pioneer Day vendor.

In the food court area around the museum’s outdoor fountain and river-rock gazebo, food vendors will offer hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue, fried-fish sandwiches, nachos, funnel cakes, kettle corn, popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, cotton candy, doughnuts, fresh-squeezed lemonade, Hawaiian shaved ice, coffee, soda, and bottled water.  

In addition to music, crafts, and food, various community organizations—including McDowell County Public Library, Old Fort Chamber of Commerce, Exploring Joara Foundation (archaeology), the North Carolina Home Guard, and McDowell County Historical Society—will have booths set up to showcase their services.

A special feature of this year’s Pioneer Day Festival will be the exhibition of the 22nd Regiment North Carolina Troops battle flag.On loan from the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, this historic Civil War flag will be on exhibit at Mountain Gateway Museum for the festival weekend only, from Thursday, April 21, through Sunday, April 24.

At 2 p.m. on Pioneer Day, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 379 will hold a short program to commemorate the soldiers who fought and died under this Confederate flag and will recognize some of those soldiers’ descendants.

Members of S.C.V. 379 and the 22nd North Carolina will be encamped on Mountain Gateway Museum’s grounds throughout the festival weekend and, on Friday, April 22, will host an estimated 300 area students at a Student Civil War Day, featuring demonstrations of Civil War camp life, including cooking, drilling, and music, as well as demonstrations of civilian life. A full-size artillery piece will be part of the encampment.

For more information about the 2016 Pioneer Day Festival or the exhibition of the 22nd Regiment N.C. Troops battle flag, please contact RoAnn Bishop at Mountain Gateway Museum either by phone at 828-668-9259 or by e-mail at

For more information about the S.C.V. 379’s encampment and Civil War activities at the museum during Pioneer Day Festival weekend, please contact Jeff Cordell at 828-659-6377 or


  • Occurred Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 — all day


Mountain Gateway Museum

24 Water Street
Old Fort, NC 28762


RoAnn Bishop