VALDESE -- The town of Valdese will honor the spirit and determination of its founders while keeping residents safe.
Normally, the Waldensian Festival commemorates the second weekend of August, 1689, when Waldenses from Piedmont, Italy rose from three years of peril to return to their homeland and rebuild their lives. The town was founded in 1893 by 29 Waldensian settlers from the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy.
The festival has been a highlight of each Valdese summer for more than 44 years, but had to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In consideration of the current situation with COVID-19, the town of Valdese Community Affairs department has partnered with local businesses and attractions to continue the annual tradition safely and celebrate the Glorious Return.
“The 45th annual Waldensian Festival is completely different than how we originally planned,” said Morrissa Angi, director of the Valdese Community Affairs department. “However, we hope that our community will join us in honoring the town’s Waldensian heritage this summer in a reinvented fashion.”
The week of Aug. 3-9 will feature a variety of fun activities:
» Virtual Events:
The celebratory week will kick off with Valdese Trivia and Name that Native, which will be hosted virtually on the town of Valdese social media platforms (facebook.com/ValdeseNC and Instagram.com/ValdeseNC). During this week, clues will be posted on these pages at 9 a.m. for Valdese Trivia and 11 a.m. for Name that Native. Followers will be challenged by creative clues featuring historic figures and facts about the Valdese community.
» Waldensian Heritage Museum:
The Glorious Return of the Waldenses is the very reason for celebrating in Valdese each year on the second weekend of August. The Rev. Dr. Kevin Frederick, pastor of Waldensian Presbyterian Church since 2007, is in the process of partnering with the Waldensian Heritage Museum to provide information to the public regarding the meaning behind this historical event and what led him to become so knowledgeable in Waldensian history, according to Gretchen Costner, the museum’s director. Frederick presents two historically based sermons each year and is developing a historic book called, “With Their Backs Against the Mountains - 850 Years of Waldensian Witness.” Costner said the museum is closed due to COVID-19, but people can call her at 828-874-1111 for more information on Waldensian history and Frederick’s efforts. The museum is located at 208 S. Rodoret St. in Valdese.
» 33rd Annual Open Art Competition:
The Rock School Arts Foundation welcomes artists 18 years and older to enter two-dimensional artwork into the 33rd Annual Open Art Competition. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition will take place online only. Judging this year’s entries will be Allan Butt, an award-winning artist working in Charlotte. He will select first-place ($500), second-place ($200) and third-place ($100) awards. The public will be invited to vote online Sept. 5 – 11 for the People’s Choice Award ($50). The online exhibition will open Saturday, Sept. 5 and can be viewed at rockschoolartgalleries.com.
» Where’s WALDO Scavenger Hunt:
For those wanting a safe way to get outside and explore, mark your calendars to go on the scavenger hunt for Waldo - Peter Waldo, that is. Waldo, who is regarded as the founder of the Waldenses, will be hidden throughout downtown and at several local attractions. Clues will lead participants to discover not only Waldo, but the many amenities and photo opportunities the town of Valdese has to offer. With more than 25 clever clues, the scavenger hunt will be fun for all ages. Clues are available for download at townofvaldese.com or for pick up at the Old Rock School.
» Historic Outdoor Drama “From This Day Forward”:
“From This Day Forward,” the fourth-longest running outdoor drama in North Carolina, will continue its season on Fridays and Saturdays until Aug. 15. The production begins at 8 p.m. at the Fred B. Cranford Amphitheatre on Church Street in Valdese. This production has been artfully performed annually for more than fifty years in honor of the heroic tale of the Waldenses and the founding of the town of Valdese. Seating is limited, due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, so reservations are strongly encouraged. Tickets can be reserved online at oldcolonyplayers.com or by calling 828-522-1150.
» Glorious Return Shop Hop:
For those who are interested in downtown shopping and a chance to win big, the Glorious Return Shop Hop is a must. Shoppers are invited to visit a minimum of 15 out of 22 participating local Valdese businesses for a stamp. Business stamps will be available Aug. 3-9 during the hours specified on the shop hop form in featured business blocks. Those who receive 15 stamps will be entered to win prizes as follows:
» First-place: $250
» Second-place: $100
» Third-place: $50
» Fourth-place: $25
Once a minimum of 15 stamps are received, shoppers must submit their completed form to the Old Rock School submission box, located at the east side entrance of the building. Shoppers are also encouraged to visit the Burke County Chamber and Visitors Center for a double entry stamp. The drawing will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 11, and winners will be notified via phone. Please be mindful of all businesses’ requests for COVID-19 safety measures. The town of Valdese would like to thank all of the participating businesses and encourage community members to rally around local businesses.
“We have an amazing variety of businesses downtown and commend them for reinventing their business operations during this difficult time,” Angi said.
See the full list of Valdese merchants at downtownvaldese.com.
A full list of events and details is available online at waldensianfestival.com. For more information, contact Valdese Community Affairs at 828-879-2129.
“Our Valdese summers are typically full of music, fireworks and gatherings with friends and neighbors, and while COVID-19 caused our annual event calendar to be drastically altered, we are preparing for a tremendous comeback in 2021,” Angi said.
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