Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers 

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In 1962 from in and around the little mountain town of Hendersonville, NC, the so called “Dancingest Little Town in America” a group of teenagers and one adult, 24 year old James Kesterson, started the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers. Hendersonville had been the Home of the retired worlds champion North Carolina Cloggers and a bit of their influence can be seen in the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers.

This new group of highly energetic dancers was formed to dance in competitions, of which they won more than this writer can remember, but soon found other venues where they could exhibit their skills.

In fact, some of the group soon found that they had talents for singing and some even started playing musical instruments allowing the group to expand their performances. This was a tremendous benefit in that up until this his time all revenue from performances was exhausted paying a band to accompany the dancers. These expanded performances were to prove beneficial in that organizers of some dance competitions began to ask the group to please stop dancing at their festivals, because other teams were complaining that they didn’t have a chance of defeating the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers, so why try. In fact, competitors were so scarce at one competition that Kesterson entered three teams so that the audience wouldn’t be disappointed by the lack of clogging teams.

Most of these kids had not played high school sports, but they soon discovered that the endurance required was similar to that of long distance runners. And oh the sights they saw. Travel to places like New Orleans, the Bahamas, New York City and Washington, DC; and the honor of representing their state and their nation was overwhelming. Those that began this group left a legacy that was to live for almost 40 years. As one member would depart to start a career or to get married and start a family, a new starry-eyed teen would come along to fill the void. Though the road walked by these new members was smoother, the commitment was just as great. Over the years, this group was on the marquee with the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Theodore Bikel, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Kingston Trio, Doc Watson, Judy Collins, Mike and Pete Seeger just to name a few.

Some of the accomplishments of this group are:

  • Represented North Carolina at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
  • Participated in the 1964 and 1965 Newport, RI Folk Festival. Note: A movie was made of the 1964 Newport Festival. That movie was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary.
  • Performed at New York’s Central Park.
  • Performed at the Smithsonian several times.
  • Crowned North Carolina state champion cloggers.
  • Named Distinguished Citizens of North Carolina.
  • Represented the United States at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
  • Represented the United States at Montreal Expo 1970.
  • Represented North Carolina at the 1980 Knoxville World’s Fair.
  • Performed summer stock production of “Annie Get Your Gun” under the direction of Clu Gulager.
  • Retired the Bascom Lamar Lunsford trophy by winning the clog dance competition at The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival three years running.
  • Won the Hendersonville Apple Festival several years running.
  • Won the clogging championship at the Cherokee Reservation several years running.

It is the hope of those that helped put this information together that those who view it will be able to share some of the excitement and memories of the kids who lived the thrill of competition, the pride of representing our State and our Country, the travel and the friendships that were forged during the years.

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