Grade A

John Waddill’s watercolor of downtown Saluda captures the feel of the spring arts festival.

National Train Day was last week, a new documentary revealing Saluda’s rich music traditions is about to be released, and all in all, we just have the picturesque foothills railroad town — home to the steepest grade on the East Coast — on our mind these days. It’s perfect timing for the Saluda Arts Festival on May 21, a gathering of some 100 regional makers in all media, including such acclaimed local names as finger-painting stylist Amy Perrier, folk-art maverick Peter Chumbley, and fine-art photographer Jean-Jacques Benoist.

The day-long event brings around 4,000 extra people into Main Street. Live music is the parallel draw. Beloved old-time stalwarts Hog Town Squealers are on board, joined by the Over Mountain Band (formerly the Saluda Grade String Band), Sound Investment, and Pistol Hill, a new trio out of Shelby featuring seasoned singer-songwriters John Branson and Beau Williams, with Marie Lynn.

An emotive watercolor rendering of the action, done by John Waddill, captures the revelry without words — and the continued use of the painting to represent the event attests to the importance of legacy here.

“[John] has since passed,” says promoter Wendy Hamil. “We keep this image as our brand in his honor.”

The Saluda Arts Festival takes place on Saturday, May 21, 10am-4pm on Main Street in Saluda. Free.

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