2016 Award Recipients

The North Carolina Folklore Society is pleased to announced its 2016 awards!

Brown Hudson Award 

Fred Parnell, Tyro and Lexington, NC

Fred Douglas Parnell is the son of Sallie Farabee Parnell, a talented rag rug weaver who was awarded the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1990. Fred (or “Doug,” or “Uncle Doug,” to many) actively strives to keep up the historical legacy of his mother, “Aunt Sallie” through his handmade rugs, and to preserve state folk traditions through his handmade benches, baskets, or caned chairs. Doing demonstrations, he is eager to give his audience first hand knowledge of rug weaving. He wants to share and extend the legacy of his family, credited with having “lint in their veins” — he handcrafted one of his favorite looms for his sister Carolyn Phillips. But he also wants to preserve North Carolina heritage and traditional skills in general — he sees each member of his audience as a potential future weaver. In addition to being popular for his handmade rugs and other items, he is a sought-after public speaker for his stories about growing up during the Depression and serving in World War II.

Max Woody, Marion, NC

Max Woody is a sixth-generation chair maker from Marion, in McDowell County, NC. He makes other things as well — footstools, a rolling pin or baseball bat — once even a wooden leg. But mostly Max is known for using local Blue Ridge Mountain wood to make traditional ladder back chairs as well as rocker and straight chairs. Some have the traditional pointed finial, but he also makes a shorter finial, known as the “Woody Knob Tob.” Max assembles the handmade pieces of his chairs by age-old methods, boiling slats to bend them for chair backs, shrink-fitting parts together by placing dried rungs into posts that still hold some moisture. The only glue he uses is on the joint between a chair arm and the post of a rocking chair. He learned these methods of making chairs primarily from his grandfather, and has had his own shop in Marion since 1955. Max’s love of tradition also helped start heritage celebrations in Old Fort and Marion, including the Pioneer Days festival, and a weekly bluegrass jam each Friday night, which currently meets directly across from the Max Woody Chair Shop.

Community Traditions Award – The Ward Family of Beech Mountain, NC

Members of the Ward family have been documented again and again, starting with storyteller R. M. Ward and his sons, Miles and Marshall. Rick Ward is a ninth-generation descendant of the first two families who settled on Beech Mountain about the time of the Revolutionary War. Rick’s mother Willa Jean sang children’s songs around the house, sacred songs in church and on local radio gospel programs. His maternal grandmother was part Black Hawk Indian, and she had an extensive knowledge of local herbs and healing techniques. His father N.T. Ward cultivated a sizable wild ginseng patch as well as hunting, fishing, and farming.  As a teen, N.T. Ward learned to build banjos and dulcimers. He eventually learned to make fiddles and especially liked to experiment with local woods—cherry, dogwood, applewood, cedar, and chestnut. Rick’s grandfather, Tab Ward, perfected the “double knock” style of banjo playing, which Rick stuck to amidst the folk revival of clawhammer and festival popularity of bluegrass. Tab Ward was also a storyteller and a maker of old-time toys. Folklorist Henry Glassie wrote about both N. T. Ward and Tab Ward in the Journal of American Folklore. Rick Ward carries on the Ward Family traditions in his performance of ballads and other songs, banjo playing, instrument-making, hunting, farming, herbalism and healing knowledge.

Awards Celebrations

We’re proud to announce the first of our 2016 award winners. Max Woody will receive a Brown-Hudson award at a ceremony in Marion, NC on October 9. See more information here and please plan to join umaxwoodys to celebrate Mr. Woody’s life and work!
Max Woody, the sixth-generation chair maker and “part-time fiddler,” will be honored with the the North Carolina Folklore Society’s 2016 Brown-Hudson Folklore Award at an Oct. 9 event in Marion.

The free, public ceremony is set for 2-4 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Historic Carson House, 805 Highway 70 West, Marion. McDowell County native Woody, 87, has worked in chair-making for more than five decades, starting when he was only four.

“I always had a knack for it,” Woody told blueridgeheritage.com.

The Brown-Hudson award was established in 1970 to honor those who have contributed in a special way to the appreciation of North Carolina folklife. Previous winners have included musicians Doc and Merle Watson, playwright Paul Green and potter Neil Cole Graves.

Some of Woody’s work will be on display at the event. Speakers will include Julia Taylor Ebel, of Jamestown, author of Max Woody, Chair Maker: A Legacy in Wood and Dick Drake, of Raleigh, a fellow woodworker of Woody’s and a former North Carolina Public Schools vocational education director.

Woody’s finely detailed chairs have brought customers from all over the country to his work, even without formal advertising. He welcomes visitors to his shop, at 4015 US 221 North in Marion, and enjoys spending time talking to visitors, especially aspiring crafts makers.

Moody, a self-described “part-time fiddler,” also shows up at music gatherings in McDowell and nearby counties. But carrying on the family occupation of making furniture is what he’s really about.

“Chairs is all I do,” Moody told blueridgeheritage.com

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