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OUR JOURNEY: From Clay Inception to Bronze Creation! The Unveiling!

Women’s History Trail Sculpture Community Celebration – March 23, 2024

By Theresa Ramsey, WHT Leadership Team Member

In the beginning…both the Women’s History Trail concept and the “Sowing the Seeds of the Future” sculpture project began as thoughts in the fertile mind of Barbara McRae. Barbara was a journalist, a historian, a naturalist, a visionary, and a trailblazer. She had particular interest in researching the lives of significant Macon County women whose accomplishments and influences had been unknown or forgotten. In 2017, Barbara met the sculptor, Wesley Wofford, a chance encounter that sparked the creation of Sowing the Seeds of the Future. Barbara had been thinking about the interconnected lives of Na-Ka Rebecca Morris, (a Cherokee woman), Harriet Timoxena Siler Sloan (a pioneer woman), and Salley, (an enslaved woman), all linked by a specific piece of property on the river.  Barbara was trying to imagine what their everyday lives might have been like in early-19th century Franklin. Wesley immediately embraced the challenge of bringing them to life in a work of art. In May 2018, he presented the maquette – the miniature prototype – of Sowing the Seeds of the Future to the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County and he was enthusiastically commissioned to go ahead with the sculpture.

Fast forward five and a half years later On Saturday, March 23 at 11 am at the Town of Franklin’s newest park, the Women’s History Park located at 592 E. Main Street, this historic sculpture created by nationally renowned sculptor Wesley Wofford, will be unveiled!  The Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC), sponsor of the Women’s History Trail, will officially transfer this treasured gift of public art to the Town of Franklin in honor of Women’s History Month.  The sculpture not only represents three historical women but also symbolizes each group of women and their cultural contributions that helped forge modern day Franklin. The Women’s History Park, although designed and created by FHAMC, belongs to the Town of Franklin, and will stand with the artistic MainSpring silos, Greenway orchard/butterfly garden and nearby Nikwasi Mound to help develop a hub of cultural growth for this river area.

The WHT Sculpture Community Celebration will be a time for reflection as we remember those gone before us who paved the way, and a time for celebration as we dedicate the sculpture as the trailhead for the Women’s History Trail and welcome these “ladies” to their home in the newly established park by the river.  The unveiling ceremony will include this dedication, comments from cultural speakers, remarks from Wesley and Odyssey Wofford, and special guests First Lady Kristin Cooper and Town of Franklin Mayor Jack Horton.  Pre-show music will begin at 10:30 am at the site featuring Blue Jazz.  Additional entertainment will include a vocal solo by Delphine Kirkland, an interpretive dance by Jada Bryson and the Dance Co-op followed by post celebration performances by Ubuntu Chorus, Susan Pepper and Laila Messer (folk music), Cherokee Storyteller Kathi Littlejohn and sculpture conversations with Wofford Studios.

Following the unveiling, the celebration will continue in the downtown area food offerings at one of Franklin’s many restaurants, the season’s first Artisan Alley Downtown Market on Phillips Street(11 am – 5 pm) and music.  The uptown Gazebo on the Square will highlight traditional tunes by Tom & Wyatt at 1:00 pm, Blue Jazzfeaturing Dave, Scott, and Delphine at 1:45 pm and folk music by Susan Pepper and Laila Messer at 2:30 p.m.  The Scottish Tartans Museum will host Cherokee Storyteller Kathi Littlejohn at 2:00 pm and the dulcimer group Lady and the Tramps and mountain music duo Tom & Wyatt will perform throughout the downtown area.  We appreciate Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center and the Arts Council of Macon County for providing entertainment sponsorships.

Other activities leading up to the celebration weekend:  Head Brewer Graham Norris at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company started a WHTcelebratory beer on 2/29/24 and included in the “recipe” locally grown Keener heritage corn.  The Keener corn was generously donated by Gary Carter, and symbolically relates to the sculpture – Na-Ka Rebecca pouring corn into young Timoxena’s hand.  The beer will debut the weekend of the sculpture unveiling and is called “Sowing the Seeds.”

Also, be sure to visit ATmile110.com to learn more about the 2024 Franklin AT Celebration scheduled from March 19 through April 27.  We encourage everyone, including AT hikers, to take a walk on the WHT Trail, the first of its kind in NC that celebrates the lives of Macon County women from the past and honors their accomplishments.

Leading up to the celebration on March 23, be sure to stop in one of these downtown businesses that will “host” a banner of one of the three women from the “Sowing the Seeds of the Future” sculpture(Na-Ka Rebecca, Salley and Timoxena):  Bent Willow Bakery, Macon County Historical Museum. Renee’s Cake Shoppe, Rusted Arrow, and Uptown Gallery/Macon County Art Association.  Also, other stores will feature heritage displays in celebration of Women’s History Month and the sculpture unveiling, i.e., at the Kitchen Sink, Inc., you can sample Indian frybread with a variety of dipping sauces; Renee’s Cake Shoppe will provide Lassie Kelley’s original pound cake recipecomplete with strawberries, and whip cream; A Novel Escape Bookstore will display books that spotlight women’s history; and additional merchants are making to plans to participate!

The Folk Heritage of Macon County Board and Women’s History Trail Leadership Team wish to thank those individuals and groups who donated to the sculpture project making this dream of public art a reality (visit our website for a list of donors).  We especially thank the Franklin Town Council, Town Liaisons for the project, Mayor Horton, Manager Amie Owens and Staff for their commitment and contributions.  Financial support from the Franklin Tourism Development Authority, Franklin/Nantahala Tourism Development Committee, the Town of Franklin and individual donors helped provide funding for the project and park.

Since parking is limited, visitors are encouraged to park nearby at East Franklin Elementary School (100 Watauga Street, Franklin) and ride the free shuttle to the site.  For everyone’s safety, pedestrians should use the crosswalks provided.  In case of inclement weather, information will be posted on our website for an alternate location for the event – https://womenshistorytrail.org.

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