2015 Old Folks Day
Since 1891 (and probably before exact records were kept) folks have been singing from the Christian Harmony at Morning Star United Methodist Church in the Dutch Cove community south of Canton, NC. In the early 20th century the second Sunday in September was dubbed "Old Folks Day" and the annual event has featured the singing and dinner on the grounds ever since. Click on first photo in slide show to see what all the fuss is about; then mark the date on your calendar and plan to attend!
Quay was known for music; his wife Sue was know for Dinner on the Grounds. The star of the show was her chicken and dumplings. Each year someone tries to replicate them - there have been some close facsimiles, but none can really compare. In 2015 Elizabeth Smathers-Shaw, Lynn Shaw and Zeb Jolley worked as a team and turned out a decent pot as well as destroyed the kitchen which had flour from one end to the other.
(Circa 1978) Sue Smathers cooked and baked for a solid week to prepare for Old Folks Day. (She is second from right reaching across the table.) Notice the dumpling pot - it was always in that spot and folks knew to make their way there quickly or they would miss out until another September rolled around.
Besides shaped-note singing, Old Folks Day is known for one of the longest tables at any Dinner on the Grounds! Notice the dumpling pot on the left - exactly where Sue Smathers would have put it. It was empty by the end of the meal. If you go away hungry from Old Folks Day, it's your own fault.
Dinner on the Grounds at Old Folks Day is a chance to show off family recipes - many of which have something to do with dessert. Because many travel from out of state, the occasional store-bought item shows up on the table, and those goodies are not refused either!
Quay had a saying - a full barrel won't make any racket! He was known to barely eat at Old Folks Day, but Sue had him covered - she always kept back some food at home for his supper after the singing. Here June Smathers-Jolley, who now directs the singing in memory of her father, seems to be following in his footsteps....where's her plate?
June Smathers-Jolley sits where her father Quay always sat in order to call on leaders. As the singing got underway, more singers showed up and joined the choir. It was a full sound that reverberated in the beautiful sanctuary of Morning Star United Methodist Church.
Don Wiley leads the group in singing the syllables first before the "poetry," which has been an unbroken custom at Old Folks Day for 125 years.
Old Folks Day attracted singers from 4 different states and one foreign country this year. Through the years people have come from around the world to participate in this unique Blue Ridge Mountain tradition.
Quay loved ringing the church bell and beckoning people into the church every year on the second Sunday in September to sing from the Christian Harmony. He would be glad that folks still carry on the tradition. (Photo by Rob Amberg.)