The Power of Folkmoot – Mark Swanger

From an interview with Mark Swanger, Chair, Haywood County Commissioners, by Angela Dove:

The economic impact of Folkmoot’s international dance festival on Haywood County is around nine million dollars per year. That’s hotels, restaurants . . . all spending money coming into the local economy.

On the other hand, these experiences in themselves are very unique to Haywood County. I’ve seen local residents discover a source of pride in their heritage. For example, most of the families that originally settled here descend from Scotland and Ireland. So when locals see groups from half way around the world doing dances and music similar to those found in our mountains, it provides a connection, a way to explore the culture of their ancestors.

Beyond our own heritage, my family has enjoyed interacting with performers from other cultures and learning about them. For example, my wife has volunteered with Folkmoot in the past, and an African group once recognized her as someone who was taking care of them—they called her mama, a term of affection they use at home for women in that position.

I’m very supportive of the idea of expanding Folkmoot—both the year-round programs and the facility. It gives our local residents access to other cultures they might otherwise never experience. I especially appreciate it when programs go into the schools; these dancers and musicians can open a child’s mind to a world beyond what’s familiar, sometimes beyond their small zone of comfort. Especially for children from the lower socioeconomic homes, this is so beneficial.

Folkmoot is very much worthwhile.

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