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Rhododendron the star of annual Roan festival

Entertainment Staff • Jun 17, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Each June, visitors flock to Roan Mountain to marvel at one of Mother Nature's most colorful performances.

The weekend of June 21 and 22, they can supplement their trip with live music, arts and crafts, food and a wide array of old-time folkway demonstrations at the annual festival celebrating the show's star.

The 68th annual Rhododendron Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday at Roan Mountain State Park. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., both days.

Admission is free.

Sponsored by the Roan Mountain Citizens Club, the festival is held in the park at the foot of the mountain and is scheduled each year to coincide with the peak of the rhododendron bloom.

Nearly 100 arts and crafts vendors will be on hand for the event, along with a variety of food vendors and folkway demonstrators.

Live music will fill the air both days. Saturday's lineup features country, bluegrass and old-time music on the amphitheater stage. Keeping with festival tradition, Sunday will be devoted to gospel music.

Saturday's performers include: Thistle Dew, the Roan Mountain Moonshiners, The Winters, Bass Brake, Art and Cathy, Chickory Jam and Tammy & Rick.

Sunday's lineup will feature performances by the Young Family, the Joyful Noise Hand Bell Choir, Greatery Glory and two open mic opportunities — from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 4 to 5 p.m. — for any gospel entertainers interested in performing.

Various items will be auctioned off between performances to raise money for scholarships for Cloudland High School graduates, and at 2 p.m., Saturday, students participating in this year's scholarship program will be recognized.

The star of the show, of course, is the Catawba rhododendron found in abundance at the world's largest natural rhododendron gardens atop the 6,000-foot Roan Mountain. Straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina line, the famous gardens featuring 600 acres of blossoms are part of Pisgah National Forest.

The Roan Mountain Citizens Club presented the first Rhododendron Festival in 1947 as a two-day celebration to memorialize and perpetuate what it calls "the most gorgeous display of natural beauty on the North American continent." The event has been held annually ever since.

For more information about the festival, visit www.roanmountain.com/festival.htm.

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