Every year the Darrington Fairgrounds hosts the Darrington Bluegrass Festival. The history of this festival is worth noting. The local stringed music scene began with “tar heels” — that is, seasonal workers who came from the hills of Appalachia near the turn of the 20th century.
The term “tar heel” is curious. It refers to people from the pine forests of North Carolina. It can either be used derogatively against people from the American South, or it can be a term of empowerment and identification. Just depends on the context and intention of the user.
The tar heels who migrated to Darrington area knew forested hills and had the skills for high lead logging. Their logging acumen was perfectly adapted for working in Pacific Northwest logging country. Early migratory workers sent for their relatives and brought them west to work the slopes of the Cascades.
Soon there was a thriving tar heel community in Darrington. These transplants from the American South brought their banjos and fiddles with them. Weekly community jams took on a life of their own and in the 1970s the first Darrington Bluegrass Festival was born. The event has been held every year since.
Today “tar heel” culture lives on in subtle ways, as when a funeral is held in town and a community-wide picnic is staged as a wake in the community center. These memorial feasts are organized through a phone tree system as in church potlucks of yesteryear. According to Darrington native, Adrienne Hall, this generosity of food in times of need is tar heel culture to a T.