In 1973, Dr. Clinton Border, a Waynesville surgeon, accompanied a local square dance team to a folk festival in Sidmouth, England. There began the dream that would, 11 years later, become Folkmoot USA.
Border was convinced that Western North Carolina, which was already steeped in tradition and dedicated to the preservation of its own heritage, was the perfect location for an international folk festival in the United States. during the next few years, Border traveled to other festivals in Poland and France and began gathering information and developing contacts. He also started contacting local government and community leaders back home.
By 1983, Border was ready to present his vision to Haywood County's community leaders. Despite language barriers and the inherent scheduling difficulties involved in getting foreign performers from their homes to Haywood County, Border believed something invaluable occurs when cultures so rich in tradition come together to share their lives.
One month after Border's presentation to community leaders, a proposed board of directors met to launch Folkmoot USA, the North Carolina International Folk Festival.
The first festival was held in 1984, a date coinciding with North Carolina's 400th birthday celebration. The name Folkmoot, an Old English word meaning "meeting of the people," was borrowed from a folk festival that was once held in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
The first Folkmoot USA festival featured folk groups representing nine countries, including England, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Turkey, Mexico, Puerto Rico and India. Festival performers from the United States included Arthell "Doc" Watson, now one of the country's best-known bluegrass musicians, the Berea College Dancers and the Peter Gott Family from Marshall, N.C.
Now, 28 years later, more than 200 groups from 100 different countries have attended the festival. In keeping with festival policy, an entirely new program of performers is offered each year.