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Award-winning storyteller to present as part of Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska


LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. —Appalachian storyteller Sheila Kay Adams said she wants to share the joy of the Christmas season – and give it back to those who have lost the feeling – when she performs Saturday, Dec.  8, as part of Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska.

“That’s something we are lacking – joy, and joy in our everyday life,” said Adams, an award-winning storyteller and balladeer who will tell stories, sing and play banjo at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 in Stuart Auditorium.

At the family-friendly show, her music will be toe-tapping and her stories a mix of laugh-out-loud tales and the kind that “might make you shed a tear or two,” she said. They include “The Angel that Shot from Corkscrew” about a Christmas pageant in Madison County and “The Christmas Miracle,” a memory of a childhood midnight adventure with her grandfather.

“This show is about normal people, but they are extraordinary normal people,” said Adams.

Adams also will perform traditional Scottish and English ballads including “The Cherry Tree Carol” and a Scottish version of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.”

“It’s amazing what Christmas carols you can get out of a banjo,” said Adams.

The rendition of “Away in a Manger” that will be part of her program is one she learned from Doug Wallin, who is a member of the Wallin Family of traditional ballad singers. Wallin, like Adams, is a National Endowment of the Arts National Heritage Fellow. The award recognizes folk and traditional artists for their artistic excellence and efforts to conserve America's culture for future generations.

Adams is a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller and clawhammer-banjo player who was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County in Western North Carolina. That area is renowned for its unbroken tradition of unaccompanied singing of traditional southern Appalachian ballads, which dates back to the early Scots/Irish and English settlers in the mid-17th century.

Adams learned to sing from her great-aunt Dellie Chandler Norton and other notable singers in the community, including Dillard Chandler and the Wallin family.

Adams began performing in public in her teens and, throughout her career, has performed at festivals, events, music camps and workshops around this country and the United Kingdom. Other performances include the acclaimed International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, as well as the 1976 and 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival as part of The Bicentennial Celebration and Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony.

Adams authored the novel “My Old True Love” and “Come Home With Me,” a collection of stories that won the North Carolina Historical Society's award for historical fiction in 1997.

She also has recorded albums of ballads, songs and stories including “My Dearest Dear,” “All the Other Fine Things” and “Live at the International Storytelling Festival.” Her most recent releases are a series of three “Legacy” recordings featuring banjo tunes, ballads and storytelling, and all three will be available at the show. Adams has appeared in movies “Last of the Mohicans” and “Songcatcher,” on which she also served as technical adviser and singing coach.

Mitzi Johnson, director of programming at Lake Junaluska, said the stories Adams will share at Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska reflect how families and friends gather at Christmas and recount memories and stories.

“As she spins her tales of love, longing and celebration, she takes us back to that Appalachian tradition of gathering around a blazing fire with family and friends, knowing in our hearts there’s no other place in the world we’d rather be,” said Johnson.

Tickets to Adams’ show are $23 for reserved seating and $18 general admission. To purchase tickets online or for more information about Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska, visit Tickets also can be purchased by phone at 800-965-9324, in person at the Bethea Welcome Center and at the door.

A ticket to the performance also can be purchased as part of a special $40 combo ticket package that includes general admission to 7:30 p.m. performances of Handel’s “Messiah” on Friday, Dec. 7, and the Lake Junaluska Singers Christmas Concert on Saturday, Dec. 8. 

In addition, Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska events include a craft fair in the Harrell Center on Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Appalachian Christmas Craft Show is free and open to all, and features more than 40 vendors offering handcrafted pottery, soaps, textile art, leather citations, hand-dyed scarves, jewelry, wreaths and other items. The show is hosted by the Junaluska Woman’s Club and all profits go toward charitable organizations.

Lake Junaluska is a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body. For more information about Lake Junaluska, visit

Appalachian Christmas Events

Handel's “Messiah,” featuring a local choir and orchestra
Friday, Dec. 7
7:30 p.m.

Appalachian Christmas Craft Show
Saturday, Dec. 8
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Harrell Center

Storyteller Sheila Kay Adams
Saturday, Dec. 8
2 p.m.

Lake Junaluska Singers in Concert
Saturday, Dec. 8
7:30 p.m.

Appalachian Christmas Worship Service
Sunday, Dec. 9
9:30 a.m.
Memorial Chapel

Concerts and storyteller take place in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska.


Mary Bates
Lake Junaluska
PO Box 67, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745