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Celebrate fall harvest with molasses and lye making demonstrations

sorghum molasses making
Volunteers help make sorghum molasses at the Mountain Life Festival in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Image courtesy of the National Park.

GSMNP -- It’s molasses and lye making time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fall will be in the air and mornings will require a sweater as old time demonstrations take place during the Mountain Life Festival on Saturday, September 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Mountain Farm Museum adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. This special annual event preserves the legacy of Appalachian folkways and is a tribute to the many families who lived on lands that later became the national park.

jennifer brickey
Volunteers give a lye making demo. Image courtesy of the National Park.


The Festival provides an opportunity to share with park visitors some of the traditional fall activities that were an important part of rural life in the southern mountains and reflect the spirit of cooperation that existed among families and neighbors. Demonstrations will include hearth cooking, apple butter making, sorghum syrup making, blacksmithing, lye soap making, food preservation, and chair bottoming. Artifacts and historic photographs from the national park's collection will also be on display.

The syrup making demonstration has been the centerpiece of the event for over 30 years. The sorghum syrup is made much the same way it was produced a hundred or more years ago, using a horse-powered cane mill and a wood-fired cooker. The syrup making demonstration is provided by students, staff, and volunteers from Swain County High School Future Farmers of America through a cooperative agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

In addition to the Mountain Life Festival events, visitors will also be treated to music jam sessions which are held on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center every first and third Saturday of the month from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Mountain Farm Museum is located adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina.

Published September 9, 2014

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