Free local Sassafras Moon Herbal Festival returns to Erwin

Published 12:39 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The celebration of Appalachian herbal traditions and foods will again be the focus of the outdoor Sassafras Moon Herbal Festival in Erwin on Saturday, Sept. 16, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. The festival, affectionately nicknamed “Sassyfest,” began in 2019 and hosts around 35 herbal product vendors, while downtown merchants provide classroom space for herbalists to teach about their skills. Originated by the local herbal school HERBalachia, the entire event is provided free of charge to the public through sponsorships.

A skillset long handed down through generations of Appalachian people, using herbs as medicine and seasonal foods, was a survival skill for many Unicoi residents, both in terms of curing illness when a doctor was not available or affordable. Herbs also traditionally provided a means of income from selling crude herbs for pharmaceutical use. In the 1920s and 1930s the southern Appalachians provided 70 percent of the entire herb stock used for medications in the U.S.

“This is a skill and heritage that locals should be proud of. I have a great love for herbs personally, but also want to make sure this valuable knowledge is not lost or forgotten,” says Dr. Michelle Bouton, founder of the festival and the HERBalachia school. “So many people have expressed regret to me over not listening to Papaw when he would take them out into the woods to teach them about plants and herbal medicines. Now Papaw is gone, and his family knowledge with him. I want the school to be a repository for that plant wisdom, and to pass it on to as many people as possible.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

If you want to step out your back door and identify a dandelion, watercress, or yarrow plant and know how to make medicine from it, attending the Sassafras Moon Herbal Festival will be a great first step for an introduction to herbalism.

For more information, visit
Facebook event:
Event director is Dr. Michelle Bouton 423-612-7494 cell/text

About HERBalachia:
HERBalachia, the first herbal training school in east Tennessee, has connected herbalists, growers, and educators by promoting safe usage of herbs since 2016. The curriculum balances traditional Appalachian herbal wisdom with modern evidence-based scientific knowledge while building resilient community around local plants.