Cooleemee's Textile Heritage Festival

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2012

COOLEEMEE – There will be plenty of fun and a bit of history at this town’s upcoming 21st Textile Heritage Festival. It all starts at 10 a.m. this Saturday Sept. 29, on the Zachary House Grounds on Church Street.
One of the features this year will be an antique toys exhibit, fond memories for some, fascination for others. At 11 a.m. begins the Carolina Cornbread Contest, with a first prize of $200. At 11:30 a.m., visitors may observe the Passing The Torch ceremony, and at noon, the popular Greenville Textile Heritage Band from South Carolina will present a unique live music experience.
In addition, there will be games, face painting, and great food – barbecue cooked in the Old Cook Shack, pintos and corn bread, funnel cakes and more.
Passing the Torch to a New Generation
For 21 years, this annual fall festival has filled many needs – part reunion, part public history event and above all, the source of new, life-long memories for today’s children.
This year a new feature is being added by its sponsor, the Cooleemee Historical Association. A “Passing the Torch” ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. on the patio at the front of historic Zachary House on Church Street.
For years, Cooleemee elders have worried about how the town’s outstanding history work will continue when they’re gone. This World War II generation has borne the same worry about the community itself. Who will take up all those tasks necessary to have a real hometown – keeping the place safe, teaching and mentoring its children, opening the museums, holding churches together? To recognize the importance of a new generation of leaders and community activists, CHA will be presenting this ceremony for the first time.
Edith Waller and Helen Everhart, with many years of teaching at Cooleemee School, will be passing the torch as senior educators on to Christie Taylor Jones and Rebecca Davis O’Neal. Both of these young women grew up in Cooleemee, attended Cooleemee School, went off to college and came back here to teach.
Kathryn Spargo and Gail and Ronnie Bivins are the only members living from the old Cooleemee Recreation Association. When the cotton mill closed, all of the mill company’s financial support and staff coordination of local sports and the swimming pool ended. Countless fund raisers and volunteer hours later, recreation in this town continued due to this group’s efforts. At the ceremony, these elders will pass the torch on to Sandra Ferrell, Daphne Beck and Ron Bivins, all of whom grew up in Cooleemee. Ferrell is the town’s Recreation Director while Beck and Bivins have devoted years of work to RiverPark.
“None of these individuals contributed to this community to seek recognition,” says CHA President Tony Steele. “Our elders commitments and good works came from their hearts. This is what we want to encourage. Cooleemee can only survive if a younger generation steps up to the plate.”
Immediately after the ceremony, the Greenville Textile Heritage Band will strike up their tunes. [See the Greenville Textile Heritage Band photo on the back page.]