Bringing the World to WNC


By Laura LaVoie


Lake Eden Arts Festival, held twice a year near Black Mountain, is a cultural music and arts festival of monumental proportions. It is hard to imagine the first festival was organized back in 1995 when Jennifer Pickering was only 28.


Jennifer Pickering

Jennifer Pickering

Held twice a year, LEAF has become the premier music and camping festival in the area, even called “The best cultural Mix and Match Festival in the nation” by the Washington Post in 2001. It is difficult to measure LEAF by its attendance as the festival is limited to 6000 people per day. They have no trouble attracting this audience for the rich and varied music performances held on different stages within the festival throughout the day.


None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the simple dream of Jennifer Pickering who chose these rolling mountains as the setting for the festival because she grew up there. Pickering wanted to bring the music of the world to Western North Carolina.


The most impressive aspects of the Lake Eden Arts Festival, and Pickering’s personal mission, are the programs intended to bring the arts to children in the area and around the world. The two programs, LEAF in Schools & Streets and LEAF International, were designed for educational outreach to match mentors with students to learn art and music hands-on and even have a chance to perform. These programs don’t just teach music and cultural heritage but they also encourage positive self-esteem and a connection to their community.


Pickering is humble and gracious and very much a part of the WNC community. Our conversation with Pickering in December for this article was brief. This time of year she takes a Technology Sabbatical to be away from the distractions of cell phones and emails and spend her time enjoying the season. This may even be the key to her success. “It is an honor that you would like to include me in the women’s issue,” was all she had to say.



Laura LaVoie is a freelance writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. You can read about her tiny house adventures at Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker