I had the privilege to attend the first in what's to become an annual
event on "Fraser's Ridge", that's the area that Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series has suggested was the setting of her fourth book in the series "Drums Of Autumn" as well as subsequent books, that are set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. According to Diana the location is "in a plot of land covering roughly 10,000 square acres in the area north of the Yadkin River between the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock near Grandfather Mountain, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina".
Fraser's Ridge: Homecoming was organized by Outlander North
Carolina, whose administrators are Beth Pittman, Susan Holmes Jackson, Traci Wood Thompson, Nancy Roach( many know her as "The White Sow" on twitter), Blair Beard, Cameron Willard Hogg and Harmony Lea Tersanschi, Mitzi Munroe and Tara Heller. It was held on September 20-23rd.
This was a very different kind of Outlander themed event than any others I have attended before. There weren’t any guests appearances from the cast, the only “star” was the setting of the fictional area of Fraser’s Ridge. The mountains were impressive and they made for glorious vistas outlining the skyline, fog laced in the morning and colorful reds and oranges in the evening, as the sun was setting....green and brown throughout the daylight. Spectacular and breathtaking.... I can only imagine what it looked like in the 1700's....more wild and full of American Indians, settlers and maybe even a certain bear?
Attendees were all propelled through the stones, back in time to the mid 1700’s for the entire four day event. It was held in Ferguson, only a few miles away from Diana’s idea of the Fraser’s Ridge area of Boone, at the Leatherwood Mountains Resort,
The event began at check-in at
Hendrix Cabin. Many attendees were lodging at cabins they rented on-site. I was greeted inside by a few of the lovely lassies at tables in the decorated cabin, as well as a life size Jamie and Claire. After chatting and getting all my swag and pertinent materials, (and taking a pic with the Fraser's) I headed to my cabin, which honestly was nothing like the Fraser’s cabin, but I didn’t mind the extra space, as well as the running water, cozy modern kitchen and flush toilets ( hot tub!) the Fraser’s had to do without!
I freshened up and unpacked to get ready for the “Hello The House Reception” that evening at 5:30. This was being held at the resorts restaurant and back porch band-shell. The evening dress was casual and many wore Outlander t’s or their special edition shirts made available before the event.
There was a cash bar to start the evening off, as we walked around saying hello to the many attendees and chatting. The event officially began with a reading by The White Sow herself, Nancy Roach. Hors d’ Oeuvres were served as we listened to Bafford and Bafford,string musicians who have been active in the music community of Iredell County for over 25 years, performing and teaching traditional Celtic music The duo are founders of the Statesville Traditional Scottish and Irish Sessions, and can be found playing jigs and reels at historic sites across the Appalachians playing traditional Celtic music for the rest
Time to retire to our cabin as we had an early wake up time in order to spend day two at the Whippoorwill Academy and Village Outlander Day at 9:00 am.
This venue is a 1700’s farm and has been owned by the Ferguson family, and was the home of Capt. Lindsay Ferguson a Confederate home guard whose brother was with Gen. Lee at Appomattox. Capt. Zebulon Vance also stayed at this house when he was in the area. He was the lawyer for Tom Dooley; the governor of NC at one time and the Captain of NC’s 26th Regiment during the War Between the States.
We drove to the village, the next morning, a few miles away. It's
made up of many original buildings representative of a town during that time period. A one-room schoolhouse was a school of higher learning. Students who attended this school: NC’s 2nd poet laureate; an inventor and oil tycoon who settled in Dallas, Texas; an engineer and a nurse, both on the Panama Canal; an author who attended West Point with General Patton and who also received two degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill.
A smokehouse showcased artwork
inspired by the Outlander series and experiences in Scotland were on exhibit here. The general store, was originally located ½ mile from its present site. Inside was locally made pickles, jellies, pottery, Appalachian toys, drinks, books and many other items made locally. The Daniel Boone cabin, was made from original stones from the cabin which he lived.
Other buildings located there were a blacksmith shop, which
demonstrated the almost lost art of blacksmithing. Of course there was a county jail, with a sheriff on location and a wash-house where a local beekeeper, Mr. H.S. Green sold different types of honey.
In the chapel, a Scottish minister, who ironically belongs to the Fraser clan, was wearing his clan's tartan, and talked about early
churches of the period.
At the visitor’s center, which substituted for an apothecary, was a real live “Claire”, Herbalist Kerry Maserik, who talked about all the herbs she made herself. This was especially interesting to me as I was scheduled for a medicinal plant walk with her the next day.
At the museum there was an interesting talk by Hollywood costume designer, Carol Zepfel on the history of the kilt. Philip Diaz also shared information about the history of the bagpipes. Showing at the village was a video about The Battle of Kings Mountain and a talk about the Scottish tartan.
There were other buildings with people in period costume dress
demonstrating rug braiding, colonial Scottish cooking, wool spinning and leather-making. All the while a live bagpiper could be heard playing in the background of this amazing step back in time.There were so many demonstrations and exhibits that I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to attend them all but by far one I made a point to attend was the whisky tasting offered by The Copper Barrel. Wilkes County is known as the Moonshine Capital of the country and this distillery is located there.
They are getting quite a positive reputation for fine moonshine and were recently featured on Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods show. I just had to taste them all. They were 96% proof! Wow!! I never tasted moonshine before.... beware, VERY strong! The moonshine came in a few different flavors, and of course I had to taste them all!
After seeing many of the exhibits and demonstrations we were hungry for our 18th century lunch, which was served family style at picnic benches, by Dawn Taylor Matthews, The Thankful Goat, who also sells many fine products made from goat milk.
As the afternoon activities drew to a close, we headed back to our cabins to rest and get ready for a big evening ahead and left that little 18th century town behind.
That evening, at 6:00 pm we had Rosamund Lindsay’s Beans and Barbecue Dinner with music by Celtic Connections, Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Celtic Connection is made up of Joe Mullin on guitar and vocals, Glenn McCollum on mandolin and vocals, and Daniel McCormick on keyboards and vocals. Fox Chase Review says, “No matter where they play The Celtic Connection provides a high energy performance of traditional and modern Irish music with a mix of rock standards in their act". There were more musings by The White Sow on the agenda as well.
By now we were fast becoming friends with many of the attendees, who we interacted and chatted with throughout the day. Everyone was friendly and excited about the experiences they were having so far, immersed in the 1700’s like Claire and Jamie and the rest of the settlers on the Ridge. We could really imagine what it was like living in "the big house" similar to this one.
Look who I spotted on the front porch of one of the homes at Whippoorwill Village.......no surprise to me!!
After a full day at the 1700's village we felt like we had gone through the stones, back in time, assisted by Celtic music playing in the background and the whisky and spirits in our glasses, we were as content as The White Sow under Jamie and Claire's home on Fraser's Ridge!
*Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog for the 2nd half of the Fraser's Ridge Homecoming event. Standing stones in NC? Read about it in Part 2, coming soon*