The Cradle of Forestry is an area dedicated to teaching and preserving the idea of National Forests. When logging was so extensive in the Appalachian range, Mr. Biltmore dedicated an expanse of land for training forest rangers and botanists to learn how to manage forest areas. There is a small museum for kids to learn about forest animals, duties of a ranger, control burns, resources, and plants. The museum is kid friendly with hands-on exhibits and a scavenger hunt. The Cradle also has a cafe, a small theatre with a film about history of forestry, a nice gift shop, and an out door amphitheatre. We took the Porvazniks and Symonds over there one day to the museum and had a great picnic, too.
In July, they host the Songcatcher Series with various Appalachian bluegrass and ballad singers. This music is performed just as much for the sake of preserving cultural history as well as showcasing regional music. Their voices are nice in a certain way, but these people would not win American Idol. But, when they close their eyes and moan out these songs, it is mesmerizing to me. Anyway, we had planned on seeing Sheila Kay Adams, but the line-up was changed to Donna Ray Norton and Melanie Rice, who are cousin and daughter to Sheila Kay.
Before the performance, we were in the bathroom and these ladies were changing clothes. I thought their faces looked familiar (from a website on regional singers). So, I introduced myself and we launched into a conversation right there in the stalls about how excited we were to be there today. How sorry we were to miss hearing Sheila Kay since we loved her so much a couple years ago in Asheville. Sadly, she was absent this day as she has cut her touring down because her husband died not too long ago. He was Jim Taylor, who is quite famous for bluegrass also. I didn't know he was dead, so that was weird. They were happy to see Alma's interest in learning Appalachian music and told her to stick around after the show so they could hear her!!
It was hot outside and most spectators had yard chairs or quilts back in the shady area; but, not us! No siree, we were up front sweating in the sun. Alma wanted me to film all of the concert so that she could study the songs later. Afterward, she sang Miss Margaret for them and did a beautiful job.
Donna Ray had a couple of CD's for sale that we bought and she gave us a headsup about other bluegrass festivals we might like. Since then, we have become facebook friends. She has a website where you can hear samples. Most of these songs are about fighting, dying over a lover, drunkeness, and adultery. Alma hopes to perform on a stage someday, and Chloe has learned a couple of them also. That'd make any mama proud.
Alma got lots of attention that day, but Chloe did not get left out. I bought her a small Folkmantis baby possum in the gift shop. She was loving on it when a ranger asked her about what she had. "Well, it's a baby possum. I found it in the gift shop and it had no mama. So, I dopted it, named it Sam, and I will raise it and teach it to sleep upside down in trees and how to find it's food in trash cans." The ranger was relieved to know that Sam will have a good home.