Fire on the Mountain in Spruce Pine
Blacksmith festival brings thousands to Western NC townBy Denise & Glen Baron
Video courtesy of UNC TV
A festival where artists create right in front of you is one of the most inspiring and educational destinations to attend. That’s what one can find at the annual Fire On The Mountain Blacksmith Festival in Spruce Pine. Co-sponsored by Penland School of Crafts, Toe River Arts Council (TRAC), and Spruce Pine Main Street (SPMS), the festival was created to celebrate the art and the history of blacksmithing in Western North Carolina.
Originating in 2007 as a small, local festival called “Hammerin’ on the Toe,” it has since grown to be one of the largest blacksmith festivals on the East Coast. Held on the last weekend in April, thousands gather each year for the free event showcasing the art of blacksmithing.
The blacksmith trade is arguably the foundation of our nation. The making of tools, weapons and building fasteners was essential to all early settlers to our country. Today, with the sun shining, and the ring of hammers on metal filling the air, the exhilaration of those early days is here, yet again.
‘Metal is magic’
Attendees find a variety of tool vendors and blacksmiths displaying and selling their work. At the demonstration tent, talented men and women hammer and bend small blanks of metal with a smile and a focused look, all the while explaining the process to the intrigued crowd that gathers around. Young and old can’t believe what they see — suddenly their eyes are opened to a real creation process that they had heard of, or read about in a history book, but never experienced. Some are even fortunate enough to be allowed to participate hands-on with the assistance of an experienced blacksmith.
Rachel Kedinger, a featured demonstrator in 2019, currently creates her own work at Holzman Iron Studio.
“What I enjoy most in this craft is that all things are possible,” Rachel says. “Metal is magic!”
John Rais, the featured Master Blacksmith at the 2019 festival, has operated his studio business since 1998, where he designs and creates unique furniture, sculpture and architectural metal art. He acknowledges that “blacksmithing chose him,” and demonstrated the forging of bronze and fire welding of perforated steel.
One highlight of the festival is the Forge Off contest, which has spirited competitors who are given a rod of iron, one hour and minimal tools. Their challenge is to create the specified object of the year, such as a spoon or hook, for a chance to win a prize. Those wishing to make it a two-day event may attend the Master Blacksmith Demonstration Workshop all day Friday. Each year, SPMS and the TRAC offers an artist exhibition, free to the public throughout the month of April honoring the work of famous blacksmiths from the southeast and beyond.
Other event draws include colorful bouncy castles for the kids, and food vendors line the street. There’s everything from freshly made funnel cakes to tantalizing fried fish, all stoking appetites amid a day of metalworking.
The festival stretches along a restaurant- and store-filled street next to railroad tracks. The past blends seamlessly with the present and you can’t help but smile while enjoying the ambience of this homey, all-American town. Indeed, the Blacksmith Festival in Spruce Pine will allow you to forget about the fast-paced world for a while. Instead, one can enjoy the atmosphere and exciting world of the past, still alive today.
Fire On The Mountain Blacksmith Festival
Learn more about festival plans.
About the AuthorRutherford EMC members Denise & Glen Baron are travel writers who live in Bostic.
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