May 12th, 2:01pm

“It all started because a student tried to burn down a podium.”

So goes the story of the Foxfire Magazine, Book Series, and Museum. The student was in an English class at the Rabun Gap-Nacochee School in GA, with first-time teacher Eliot Wigginton struggling to keep his classes’ attention. When the incident occurred, Eliot threw up his hands and asked the class what would make the curriculum interesting. The class decided to produce a magazine, with stories gathered from their families and neighbors about the pioneer era of southern Appalachia. Now written and edited by students at Rabun County High School, the magazine is still in circulation today, and will celebrate its 50th year in 2016.

On Saturday, May 7th, we visited the Foxfire Heritage and Folklife Celebration, in Clayton, GA. While a bit away from the Great Smoky Mountains, we’d heard over and over about the Foxfire publications, and how they’ve become a vital document for preserving Appalachian mountain culture. The festival sprawled over the grounds of the museum as a living history of early mountain life - from broom-making to blacksmithing, corn-shuck doll making, and baking bread over an open hearth with pork crackling.

We’ll be sure to peruse the Foxfire books at the Gatlinburg library. If you’re interested in your own subscription, visit http://www.foxfire.org/thefoxfiremagazine.aspx.