As the leaves begin to turn, Appalachian culture comes alive at the 18th Townsend Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day. Visitors and locals alike can immerse themselves in the heritage of the Appalachia. The festival is part of Townsend Days, which also includes the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center’s Blue Ribbon Fair, Nawger Nob Arts and Craft Fair and the Little River Railroad Museum’s Railroad Days.
Music is the heart of the festival with blue grass music and clogging, and what better way to enjoy the sounds of the Appalachia then watching flatfooting at its best.
This year’s festival will feature National Champion Buckdancer Thomas Maupin. Maupin, a self-taught buckdancer with a flatfoot style, will be performing on Saturday, Sept. 25, at several times during the day on stage and around the grounds of the Townsend Visitors Center.
Maupin, of Murfreesboro, is considered one of the best flatfoot dancers in the country. A recipient of the 2009 Uncle Dave Macon Trailblazer Award for his contributions to old-time music and dancing, he has been honored with many distinguished awards. A six-time buck dancing national champion with more than 60 first-place honors including the Nashville Silver Stars Talent show for artists 60 years and older and finalist for the 2009 Tennessee Governor’s Award in the Arts, Maupin is keeping the traditional art of buckdancing alive.
Buckdancing is an incredible talent and truly a joy to watch,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are proud to have Thomas Maupin, in addition to the talented bluegrass musicians, as part of our celebration of Appalachian heritage.”
Buckdancing is similar to clogging expect in buckdancing you hit every beat of the lead instrument with your feet. Each buckdancer has their individual style and individual steps.
“I have always believed that hitting every beat is important,” said Maupin. “My feet become an instrument and a part of the band.”
Maupin credits his family, particularly his grandmother, for his love of dance. Remembering his grandmother and other relatives dancing at the house, a Saturday night hoedown or a barn dance brings back many memories.
“I remember when a tune would come on in the house, my grandmother would start dancing,” said Maupin. “She had really good timing, and timing is everything.”
Maupin travels across the country dancing and encouraging young dancers to keep the tradition alive. He often dances to old-time music played on the banjo by his grandson, Daniel Rothwell. Maupin’s advice to young dancers is to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
“I always tell younger dancers that buckdancing is not just about moving around to music,” said Maupin. “You have to let your feet do the talkin’.”
Maupin believes that buckdancing is a strong tradition, and wants younger generations to continue to keep the art of flatfooting alive.
The festival takes place on the grounds of the Townsend Visitors Center, located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, in Townsend. The festival showcases mountain culture and has been named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s top 20 fall events. Admission to the festival is free. For more information on the Townsend Fall Heritage Festival, including updates on the schedule, call the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at 865-448-6134 or visit www.smokymountains.org.