Section Navigation

North Shore Decoration Day Symposium held at Appalachian

BOONE—Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Humanities Council will present the North Shore Decoration Day Symposium, a series of free events for the general public that will be held in conjunction with the Department of Theatre and Dance production of “Promises,” a new play set against the background of factual North Carolina events.

View larger imageDr. Alan Jabbour, former director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, will discuss “Decoration Day and the North Shore Revolution” Oct. 4 at Appalachian State University (photo submitted)

“Promises” was the winner of Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre’s ScriptFest and will be professionally premiered at Mars Hill College during SART’s 2014 summer season.

The symposium is designed to bring attention and recognition to the stories of the people who once populated the area now known as the North Shore and who annually decorate isolated graveyards located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. North Shore is located along Fontana Lake in Graham County.

The symposium will feature Dr. Alan Jabbour, formerly of the Library of Congress where he served as director of the American Folklife Center as well as head of the Archive of Folk Song.

The event begins with a multi-media exhibit that will be displayed Sept. 30 through Oct. 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the lobby of Valborg Theatre located on Howard Street, behind the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. The exhibit features placards based on research and photography of Jabbour and Karen Singer Jabbour. Together they co-authored a book titled “Decoration Day in the Mountains: The Traditions of Cemetery Decoration in the Southern Appalachians.”

On Friday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m., Dr. Philip “Ted” Coyle, head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Western Carolina University, will speak on the “Symbolism of Cemetery Decoration.” Jabbour and Karen Singer Jabbour will address “Decoration Day and the North Shore Revolution” at 3 p.m. The presentations will be held in the Gathering Hall of the Reich College of Education Building.

At a reception following the presentations, signed copies of the Jabbours’ book will be available for purchase and lecture attendees will be eligible to receive vouchers redeemable for available tickets to Friday night’s performance of “Promises.”

“Promises” will be performed in Valborg Theatre Oct. 2–5 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students and available from the theatre box office or online at

At 9:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, following the play, the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions of a panel that will include Helen Cable Vance and Mildred Cable Johnson. These sisters are former residents of the North Shore and co-chairs of the North Shore Cemetery Association. They will be joined by the Jabbours and members of the cast.

Jabbour, who is an accomplished fiddler, will join local artists Robert Dotson, Cecil Gurganus, Gordy Hinners and John Turner Saturday, Oct. 5, for a free concert of old-time Appalachian music and dance presented on the lawn of the Jones House in downtown Boone. The concert will be held from 3 to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit

The symposium is made possible with funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional sponsors include Appalachian’s Department of Theatre and Dance, College of Fine and Applied Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences, Hayes School of Music, Catherine J. Smith Gallery and Center for Appalachian Studies.