Here is what keeps the Friends busy throughout the year...

Care for the Connemara Goat Herd 

Today the Friends and dedicated volunteers are trusted with maintaining the world famous Connemara goat herd. These days the herd numbers about fifteen animals and they are no longer milked. Money raised by the Friends goes to purchasing new goats and improving the farm’s breeding program. All newcomers will carry Mrs. Sandburg’s bloodlines into the current herd, which is now more than 80 years old.

Every year you get an opportunity to name one of the baby goats that annually join the Connemara herd. All it takes is one lucky entry in the Name Our Goat Contest. Stop by the Friends tent at the Flat Rock Ice Cream Social in June and give us your best name! 

 

The Writer-in-Residence Program 

Despite moving to Connemara at an age when most people are ready to retire and relax, Carl Sandburg produced about one-third of all his writing in the North Carolina mountains. As such, when Lilian Sandburg deeded the Sandburg home to the National Park Service she expressed a desire for the farm to be a place of in- spiration for future writers.

That wish became a reality in 2010 when the Friends implemented a Writer-in-Residence Program at Connemara. Selection is tilted towards early career writers who are no longer in school. Residency runs for three weeks in April and includes a $1500 stipend.

Resident writers agree to promote and represent the Carl Sand- burg Home National Historic Site during their stay and to work in community outreach to raise the awareness of writing as a skill and a profession. Writers are expected to complete a finished work within six months that will reside in the park archives and promote future residencies.

Oh, and we do not throw the word “residence” about willy-nilly. The selected writer lives in the park, just down the hill from the Sandburg home in an historic structure that is now referred to as the Farm Manager’s House. It was the cottage for the caretaker of Connemara. The Writer-in-Residence is the sole occupant of the fully furnished house. Evenings after the park closes are truly special times as there are no ar- tificial lights to intrude on the peaceful spring nights. 

 

Student Poetry Contest 

How can the legacy of Carl Sandburg be truly honored without inspiring tomorrow’s poets? To that end, the National Park Service, with support from the Friends, sponsors a Student Poetry Contest each year. The contest is open to students in grades 3-12 and young poets can opt for any style with their original poems. As Sand- burg himself once sniffed, when asked about his tendency towards free verse, “If it jells into free verse, all right. If it jells into rhyme, all right.”

Each December the Park Service announces a theme to guide students in their inspiration. Entries are due by late February or early March. Judging is done by members of the North Carolina Poetry Society but the contest is open to scholastic writers nationwide. Visitors to the Carl Sandburg Historic Site during March can view the entries and vote for their favorite poem in each grade, leading to a People’s Choice award as well. All winners are invited to present their winning poems at a special NPS reception. 

Carl Sandburg Folk Music Festival  

A Carl Sandburg live performance had a familiar rhythm to the proceed- ings: a talk about poetry and art, a reading of some original verses and a finale of fifteen to thirty minutes of songs laced with commentary. Sandburg first added music to his repertoire in 1910, before he ever had a book of poetry published, when he picked up a guitar for the first time.

He collected folk songs wherever he traveled, finding them in the lives of milkmen, oil drillers, ranchers and chuck wagon cooks. He scribbled lyrics in notebooks and developed a rudimentary notation system to remember melodies. He published 280 tunes in 1927 in American Songbag, a book he called, “an All-American affair, marshaling the genius of thousands of original singing Americans.” He supplied historic commentary along with the lyrics and piano accompaniment.

Sandburg never bothered to learn more than a few simple chords and delivered songs in an untrained baritone but his impact on audiences was spellbinding, as if he were the conduit for the very American experience. Sandburg made recordings that can still be heard on the internet.

Since 1987, every Memorial Day guests are treated to a line-up of traditional folk performers who evoke the summer evenings of Carl Sandburg and the family sitting on the porch strumming and singing. The Carl Sandburg Folk Music Festival is free for all. 

Family Friendly Festivals 

With Jump into July the park sponsors family a family fund day when the park staff and volunteers set up interactive activity stations that highlight Carl Sandburg’s life and work on the farm. All acitivities including house tours are free on family event days.

Since 2006 the National Park Service at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site has participated in the Junior Ranger program that leads children from ages 7 to 12 on a journey of self-discovery within the park. Each year more than half a million kids take the Junior Ranger pledge and pursue the coveted badge and certificate by completing the program devised by the park staff.

Family members and teachers are encouraged to provide guid- ance as potential rangers uncover stories of Carl Sandburg and the treasures of the farm. Activities booklets are available in Spanish also.

The Friends at Carl Sandburg at Connemara stepped up to the challenge to gain local support to kickstart the program by winning a $5,000 matching grant with the generous support of the Community Foundation of Henderson County. Those first Junior Rangers are now able to con- sider careers as full-time rangers with the National Park Service. 

Enhancing the Park’s Natural Resources

Money raised by the Friends goes to helping maintain the landscaping of the park that makes the historic site a favorite of visitors and locals alike. The Friends also funds a summer intern who contributes to learning about the ever-changing ecology of the 264-acre site.

The Carl Sandburg property boasts over five miles of superbly groomed footpaths and farm roads. Looking for a quick leg-stretcher? We have it - an easy exploration on the Front Lake Loop. It is barely a half-mile around and so pretty you will want to do it twice.

Looking for a woodlands ramble? We have it with the Memminger Trail and the Little Glassy Mountain Trail that combine gravel roads with smooth dirt paths. The 2,426-foot mountain abounds with Lady Slipper orchids in the spring.

Looking for a spirited hike that will set your tongue to panting? Tackle the wide, smooth incline path to the top of 2,783-foot Glassy Mountain. It is a 623-foot gain in elevation in 1.5 miles to the views on the exposed rock faces.

Yes, the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site is a special place to hike - or find your own rock (or bench) to sit and bask in a rare moment of quiet serentity and consider for yourself where you have been and where you are going. 

Bearfootin’ Art Walk Auction 

Back in 2003 the streets of American cities were being invaded by animals on parade - pigs and cows and buffaloes painted by local artists. Jim Kastetter, executive director of Downtown Hender-
sonville, and his board decided to try the same thing with bears. “If this works,” suggested Kastetter, “in three years we’ll select another kind of critter.”

It indeed worked but the whimsically painted lifesize acylic bears have become an institution in Hendersonville. No other animal need apply. They appear on Main Street (and now the 7th Av- enue District) each spring and linger until fall when they are auc- tioned off to new homes. Over the years the ursine fundraisers have brought over $220,000 into the coffers of local charities.

The Friends of Carl Sandburg sponsor a Bear for the Bearfootin’ Art Walk Auction and in 2016 that was Bear P.ARK - created by Saluda artist and board member Susan Olivari. Susan managed to work dozens of animals common to the Sandburg site into Bear P.ARK. And he was the big winner at the auction - bringing the highest price of the bears up for bid.  

And what about real bears at the Carl Sandburg Home site? The park has partnered with the Division of Museum and Natural Sciences at North Carolina State University to install wildlife cameras throughout the property to monitor the frequency of black bear visitation to the park and learn a little about their nocturnal comings and goings.

Raise Money via Sandburg Family Books 

The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara have been fortu- nate to receive a collection of books that belonged to the Sandburg family after they left Connemara. The intent of this gift from
Sandburg’s granddaughter, Paula Polega, is that the books be sold as a fundraiser to support the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. A complete list of books is available. Please contact us at focs-books@gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing any of the books or if you would like more information.