Maggie Valley has a year-round of population of only 607, and its main drag contains dozens of 1960s-era mom and pop hotels, a Wild West theme park, and shops selling fudge and moonshine jelly. All these business, however, share space with chart-topping musicians and world champion dancers.
Maggie Valley may be small, but the diversity of entertainment to be found here rivals that of a much larger city.
Clogging’s premier title
Twice a year, some of the fastest feet on the planet descend on Maggie Valley to compete in the World Clogging Championships. This is the number one event in the sport of clogging, a form of dance brought to Appalachia by Scots-Irish settlers. Cloggers from all over the country come to tap, shuffle and step their way to the national title.
The Clogging Championships are held at the Stomping Grounds, a barn-style venue that doubles as a sort of museum for the sport. Over the course of three nights the first weekend in May (1-3), elaborately costumed dancers from ages 2 to 82 compete in teams of up to 40 in front of a panel of judges. At times, it can be tense — after all, the winner gets to perform on the biggest stage of all at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
“It’s a lot of mental anticipation and excitement,” says Kyle Edwards, owner of the Stomping Grounds and a clogger himself. “You never know what’s coming up next.”
Clogging at this level is extremely technical, and footwork is key. During one part of the competition, judges don’t even look at the dancers — they turn their backs to listen for the precision and quickness of foot taps. At this point, costumes matter little; dancers better have the skills to impress.
The Clogging competition takes place May 1-3. Tickets are just $10 for adults, $6 for kids. The Stomping Ground is also open from 8 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays from May to October for live country and bluegrass music.
There’s more fun to be found just down the street at the Maggie Valley Opry House. Throw open the doors to this old warehouse, and you’ll see two gold records tacked to the wall. This is the home of Raymond Fairchild, the only banjo picker ever whose instrumental track sold a million records.
Fairchild, a Maggie Valley native, has played with Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and countless other recognizable names. He performed at the Grand Ole Opry for years. Now he can be found seven nights a week, May through October, at a much smaller, simpler Opry in his hometown, joined by his backup band.
Fairchild built the Opry 22 years ago in an effort to preserve the bluegrass genre with which he’s made his name.
“I just wanted to keep mountain music alive,” Fairchild says.
Seeing Fairchild perform is an intimate experience. The venue is small and informal, with folding chairs for seats.
Check out Fairchild’s lightning-fast picking skills seven nights a week starting Memorial Day weekend. Entry is $12, or $15 if he has a bigger band joining him.
Also working to preserve the music of the mountains is Eaglenest, a 900-seat venue built in 2003. Here you’ll find national country, gospel, bluegrass and classic rock acts, many of whom have been chart-toppers at one time.
“We pride ourselves on getting high-quality, family appropriate entertainment in a first-class setting,” says Selina Keller, Eaglenest General Manager.
This season, Eaglenest will welcome the Bellamy Brothers and Gene Watson. The venue consistently offers some of the largest acts to be found in Western North Carolina.
“We really want to put Maggie on the map,” Keller says. “I don’t know of any other venue in the area that offers this entertainment on a consistent basis.”
Eaglenest is aiming to keep its ticket prices affordable, so guests can have a good time even in a down economy.
Eaglenest also holds performances on its outdoor stage, which seats 3,500. Guests can bring a blanket or lawn chair, kick back, and enjoy the temperate mountain nights.
For a schedule and ticket information, visit www.eaglesnest.com.
Want to get your feet moving? Head on down to Maggie Valley’s Diamond K Dance Ranch for some line dancing action to the tune of the Deep South Band.
Band member and guitar player Terry Rogers opened up the Dance Ranch after years of touring all over the country.
“All of us were pickers, and we wanted to settle down,” Rogers says.
The band plays top 40 and classic country tunes every Saturday night from May to October. It’s the only all-country venue in Maggie Valley.
Make sure to wear leather bottom boots for a spin on the maple hardwood dance floor. Need some practice? Line dance lessons are offered at 7 p.m., an hour before the band gets on. The whole thing wraps up at midnight. Admission is $8, and that includes the lesson.
Starting in mid-May, the Dance Ranch offers free bluegrass music from a variety of local bands every Friday night from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.diamondkdanceranch.com.
The classics come to life
For something a bit different, check out the Carolina Nights musical dinner theater. The venue opens its evening with a well-rounded meal served cafeteria style by servers who later appear on stage as the show’s performers.
As the theater’s U.S.O. themed show “Sound Off,” opens, performers salute those who historically have helped entertain the troops. Singers and dancers sporting zoot suits bring the music of the 1940s to life with rousing versions of, “Boogey Woogey Bugle Boy,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and “Clang Clang Went the Trolley.”
At another point in the show, a Betty Boop look-alike takes the stage to sing, “I Wanna be Loved by You,” and later, a Marilyn Monroe performer breathily sings, “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.”
Dinner theater shows begin at 6:15 p.m. and are held most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with additional shows on occasion. A full schedule is available online at wwwmaggievalleyusa.com and reservations may be made by calling 828.926.8822.