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11th Annual Dazzling Dahlia Festival - Sept. 11-12, 2021

On Saturday and Sunday, September 11-12, Highlands became the backdrop for beautiful vignettes of dahlias and native plants. A trail map directed people to the displays. During the weekend, members of the public were encouraged to vote for the display they liked best. The voting closed at 5:30 pm on Saturday. This year there were 27 displays, as described below. Photos by Greg Clarkson.

2021 HHS Dahlia Festival Awards

Best of the Show: Dahlia Diorama - Drew English
Second Place: "Natives find their Bear-ings" - Highlands Biological Foundation
Third Place: "Mountains of Mexico" - International Friendship Center
Honorable Mention:  "A Place for Artists" - Lisa Dailey - Cultivation

People's Choice Winners

Best of Show: "Wedding Bells Are Ringing" by Mountain Garden Club
2nd Place: Natives Find Their Bear-ings by Highlands Biological Foundation
3rd Place: "Even Busy Bees Take Time To Smell The Dahlias"  By Carol Miller and Rebecca Wiler
Honorable Mention: "A Place for the Artist" by Lisa Dailey/Cultivation

Dahlia Show - Best of Show: Mary Dotson - pompom

2021 Dahlia Festival Entries


1. "Smoke Show"


"Don’t get too close - you might get burned!” Highlands Smokehouse owners Bryan Lewis and Stephen Julka have been avidly gardening and growing their dahlia collection for several years. They are thrilled to be first-time dahlia festival participants this year.

“We’ve always been particularly drawn to the hot colors,” says Stephen, “So this installation is the perfect pairing of our most prized blooms and the hot coals in the smoking pit.”

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2. "Eliza Doolittle's Flower Shoppe"

"Look at Eliza's Flowers"
Presenter: The Bascom
Designer: Stephanie Reeves

3. "Dining with Altitude"


Experience Chef Adam’s delicious and seasonal creations. Discover why the vibe is better at 4118! 

Presenter: 4118 Kitchen & Bar

4. "Fragments of Memories and Gardens Loved”


These ceramic fragments represent favorite people, times shared, treasures collected and precious memories - filled with flowers from our gardens - the bounty of priceless gifts of cuttings, seeds, divided bulbs and volunteers from friends and family that remind us that those we have loved are always near. 

Presenter: Full House Consignment
Designer: Vevie Dimmitt, Nancy Nichols, and Jonnie Swann

5. "The Cart is Full"


For over 40 years Bryson’s Food Store has served our Highlands community. In 1977 Jim Bryson and his brothers started this amazing grocery business. The best place for every grocery, local produce, wine or beer need you may have. Not to mention the best place to run into all your friends.

Presenter: Bryson's

6. "Dahlias at the Native Pollinator Garden"


The Peggy Crosby Community Center is an organization that is focused on the direct support of the community’s non-profits and community minded small businesses. We offer greatly reduced lease rates. All major improvements are fully funded through the generosity of the community, and all contributions are fully tax deductible.


7. "Episcopal Church of the Incarnation"


A dream came true 125 years ago when this historic chapel was completed in 1896. It has nurtured many~ both full time and seasonal residents, and continues to do so. Come back next year and celebrate with our dedicated parishioners who are making another dream come true with the completion of our renovation, as we build for the future. God Bless!

Presenter: Church of the Incarnation
Designer: Sandy Norton, Miriam Skiles, Laura Montgomery

8. "Weddings: Past, Present, and Future"


Ever since Highlands was founded in 1875, it has continued to grow in population as well as become a place to escape the summer heat. It has always been a destination for weddings.

Nothing could be more charming and romantic than a small wedding in a church with a white picket fence! That’s why l, and countless others before and after me, have chosen to be married here in this beautiful chapel.

I chose a beautiful September day so mama could show off her beautiful dahlias and other florals, growing right here on the plateau. Did you know that Highlands has the perfect climate for growing dahlias? That’s why ours are so beautiful. 

Presenter: ..
Designer: Jill Helmer, Michael Burel

9. "Wedding Bells are Ringing"


It was love at first sight! At last year’s dahlia festival, Lady Bodacious was passing by the beautiful jail house garden dahlia display when she spotted JB (Jail Bird) tending the garden. Her heart went pitter-patter and JB was himself struck by her beautiful eyes!

After a year of drive-by visits and secret meetings, while gardening at night, they decided to tie the knot! What better time to get married than on the anniversary of their first meeting at the 2021 Dahlia Festival!

Presenter: Mountain Garden Club

10. "Pickles' Puppy Paradise"

Presenter: Park on Main
Designer: Staff at Park on Main

11. "Jannie Bean Fine Custom Jewelry"


Our first visit to Highlands took us to Mountain Fresh where Tom and l met Pat & Bee Gleason for coffee. We only had 45 minutes to visit because we were on our way home to Minnesota at the end of our vacation. I remember exclaiming to Tom, “The foliage is so rich and beautiful, I could live here!” Three months later, we were living here! The mountains, the forests, the native plants are all so irresistible! This is our 6th year now, and this is our home.

Presenter: Tom & Jannie Bean
Designer: Lisa Dailey

12. "Mademoiselle Dahlia"


Nervous about my first dahlia display, l thought l had better stick to what l know best, painting. I present to you Mademoiselle Dahlia! She is the belle of the festival, and l couldn’t help but paint her portrait. The flowers look so real you could almost reach out and touch them!

Presenter & Designer: Jeannie Edwards
Grower: Mary Dotson

13. "Colors From Our Community"


This arrangement is made of blooms grown and harvested at Glen Cove Farm, an integral part of the new OEI planned community, Glen Cove. Located between Highlands and Cashiers, Glen Cove is a place where members can cultivate a healthy lifestyle with family and friends; and focus on the natural beauty of the plateau.

Glen Cove Farm provides an abundance of flowers and delicious organic produce May through October, which feeds members of the community; and is also utilized by the culinary teams throughout the Old Edwards restaurants. These flowers reflect the bountiful harvest and beauty of Glen Cove Farm that is celebrated by it’s farmers, members, and guests alike.

Presenter & Designer: GlenCove Farm Team

14. "Loafer's Bench ... Zoom Zoom!"


Highlands is filled with traditions. The floral Easter cross at the Methodist Church, 4th of July fireworks, the Christmas parade...

Next to the Stone Lantern, now Oakleaf, is the loafers bench, where for decades antique car enthusiasts would park their “pride & joys” and chew the fat about elusive car parts, top speeds, and the car that got away.

Oakleaf pays homage to the loafers bench, the car guys, and the classic carriages they cover! ZOOM, ZOOM!

Presenter & Designer: Kirk Moore & Oakleaf

15. "On Parade"


One of the biggest events ever in Highlands was when the circus arrived in 1923! Thursday October 4, 1923 people were astonished to see elephants walking down Main Street. It cost almost $4.00 to see the spectacle under the big top.

The Mighty Haag Circus started by American entrepreneur, Ernest Haag toured continuously for 40+ years, from 1891 - 1935. It was one of the largest traveling circuses in the U.S.

Meet the elephants, Tip, Alice, and Babe. Tip and Alice worked for the circus for more than 30 years. Alice would pick Ruby Haag up in her mouth!

Presenter: Helen Steward
Designer: Helen Steward, Ruthie Watts, the Keller family, Natalie Jones - Mountain Life Services, & Kris Nelson - Citizen Wilder.

16. "From the Mountains of Mexico to Main Street"


Dahlias originated in Mexico long ago. Dahlia tubers grew wild in the mountains there, and were grown as a food crop by the Aztecs. They considered the dahlia bloom to be a religious symbol, and used them in different types of ceremonies.

This gorgeous flower became popular in Europe following the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 15th century. Like chocolate, tomatoes, corn, and other plants and foods native to “New Spain,” the dahlia had been previously unknown to the rest of the world.

The dahlia was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963. Dahlias have a rich symbolism: the flower stands for wealth and elegance, and also for love and involvement.

Presenter: The International Friendship Council (IFC)
The IFC assists people in the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau who are experiencing hardship, and it addresses concerns and challenges facing immigrants in our community. We provide social and human services, and nutritional assistance through the Highlands Food Pantry.
Designer: Joyce Fleming

17. "Stop and Smell the Rose"


The Vineyard at 37 High Holly started with a dream birthed in the hills of France. While Jim and Deedee Vance were attending a local triathlon, they found much majesty in the vineyards bearing plentiful bunches of grapes heavy on the vine. Prior to purchasing the once apple orchard in Scaly Mountain, the Vance’s were long part-time residents of Highlands. They found 37 High Holly when it had nothing more than an original farmhouse on 20 acres of land. Upon completion of several lodging units and an event pavilion, the Vance’s had their first wedding.

Maddie, the Vance’s daughter, married Pete Bartlett and started the first of a long line of sealed bonds and love spread at the vineyard. The Vance’s are honored to be a part of so many families’ beginnings, and are proud to be members of the Scaly Mountain community. They welcome guests with open arms and a guarantee of a pleasant stay.

Story: Blaise Vance

18. "Never Forget"



Highlands Lawn and Garden is blooming it’s 26th season of providing our beautiful plateau with a one stop garden center. Their success and growth are due to their belief in hard work and their commitment to providing quality plants and products to their customers.

They have grown to offer the largest selection of diverse plant material and products in the Highlands- Cashiers area. Highlands Lawn and Garden believes in friendly customer service and appreciates the business of our friends and neighbors. Highlands Lawn and Garden owner, David Sims is an avid University of Georgia DAWG FAN and is married to Sherry Sims, owner and Pharmacist of Highlands Pharmacy and University of Georgia graduate. They have lived in Highlands for 27 years. Son, Parker Simms, plays a very active role in the success of the nursery. The team is made up of friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable folks offering over 50 combined years of nursery experience. Highlands Lawn and Garden believes in strong community support!

Presenter: Highlands Lawn and Garden
Designer: Tina Wilnoty, Darin Keener, Parker Simms

19. "Rotary Club of Highlands"


The Rotary Club of Highlands was founded in 1945 under the leadership of Stacey Russell, each year the club has a new President that leads the club from July 1 through June 30. If you look at the list of Presidents from over the last 75 years you will probably find someone that you know or that have heard of. As the membership grew and the yearly service events were established, The Rotary Club of Highlands sent 8 dedicated members from the Highlands community to Cashiers to start The Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley.

Today the Rotary Club of Highlands has 86 active members and 3 honorary members. We also welcome members of other Rotary clubs that reside in Highlands for the summer to join our club as Red Badgers.

Rotary is an international club we have 1.2 million members worldwide our motto is Service above Self and we end each meeting with the four way test. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Designer: Sherry Holt, Linda Carter & Scott Carter

20. "Planting with Seeds for a Better Tomorrow with Highlands Cashiers Land Trust"


Deeply woven into the fabric of our community, Highlands- Cashiers Land Trust has been conserving the places we all love and need for 112 years. When Highlands’ founder, Samuel Kelsey, stood atop what is now HCLT’s conserved Satulah Mountain Preserve, he knew that he had found some place special, a realization that you, as someone standing here in this beautiful green space nestled in this charming community surrounded by these incredible mountains have likely also realized. Indeed, a place this special needs to be cared for and HCLT is equipped and ready to continue this charge for the next 100 years.

An accredited 501c3 non-profit organization, your Land Trust protects the lush forests, majestic peaks, gurgling waters and open spaces that make our plateau so special. These places are necessary for the health and wellbeing of all who call our mountains home - two legged, four legged, scaled, feathered, leaf - covered and blooming. We are funded thanks to the support of people like you. Now more than ever, the pressure is on our mountains - they need us. Please consider investing in our home by donating to HCLT today at All the native botanicals used here were collected from our conserved properties here on the plateau.

Presenter: Highlands Cashiers Land Trust
Designer: Julie Schott

21. "Dahlia Diorama"


This floral vignette is an artistic simulation of dahlias growing in a mountain garden.

Stand back and view the layers as they build from near to far to create a Summer dahlia garden diorama.

The green grass, colorful flowers, fluffy clouds and brilliant golden sun, all combined, paints a vibrant picture of dahlia season on the Highlands-Cashiers plateau!

Presenter & Designer: Drew English & The High Hampton Dahlia Garden

22. "Natives Find Thier Bear-ings Among Paws-itively Pur-fect Dahlias"


Among Highlands’ most historic places, the Highlands Biological Station has been focused on research and education on the rich biodiversity of this region for nearly 100 years. The institution that grew into the Highlands Biological Station was established in 1927 as the Highlands Museum Association, initiated by a group of local citizens at the suggestion of Clark Foreman (1902-1977).

Foreman served as the first President of the Association, which opened its museum in a one-room addition to the Hudson Library on July 4th, 1928. The museum’s Board quickly moved to expand the scope of the organization to research, inviting noted botanist William Chambers Coker and zoologist Edwin E. Reinke to base their work in Highlands. Each responded enthusiastically, and the fledgling museum acted to provide research infrastructure.

The Highlands Museum and Biological Laboratory, Inc. opened its first research lab in 1931. In the late 1930s construction began on the Station’s new museum. Designed and built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) using native granite from the local quarry and wormy chestnut salvaged from the Nantahala National Forest, the museum and associated amphitheater were a natural counterpart to the research laboratory embodying the joint research and educational mission of the Station.

The building was completed in 1941. Officially named for visionary HBS founder Clark Foreman, today the Museum is known as the Highlands Nature Center. The Highlands Nature Center is an important venue for scientists working at the Station to share their research and knowledge with the community at large. Along with the Highlands Botanical Garden, the Nature Center welcomes thousands of visitors annually. The Highlands Biological Foundation supports the Highlands Nature Center, keeping admission free to all who visit. Year-round programs including nature camps, lectures, early childhood education and seasonal activities are all operated at the Highlands Nature Center. 

Presenter: Highlands Biological Foundation
Designers: Ruthie Edwards coordinator, Lisa Armstrong, Paige Engelbrektsson, Winter Gary, Cathy Jones, Charlotte Muir, Miriam Skiles, Jennie Stowers

23. "Even Busy Bees Stop to Smell the Dahlias"


Honey Bees do more than produce Honey. They are the most important pollinators for crops. As Honey Bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate numbers of fruit and vegetable crops and foraging crops. In the State of North Carolina there are many crops for our busy bees to pollinate; apples, cucumbers, melons, corn, sweet potatoes, peaches, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, various berries and watermelons being among the most prominent.

Foraging crops that benefit from the Honey Bees in NC include alfalfa, cotton, peanuts and soybeans. One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination. And, of course, Honey bees love to pollinate flowers; the bees most favorite are Butterfly Bush, Coneflower, Cow Parsnip, DAHLIA, dandelion, daisy, goldenrod, marigold, milkweed, snapdragon and sunflower but there are many others that bees will find attractive.

Designer: Carol Miller & Rebecca Wiler

24. "Music From the Earth"


The Festival has been providing music for the mountains for forty seasons. Every July and August, for approximately six weeks, the Highlands and Cashiers areas have wonderful chamber music concerts available on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings. Special events are also available at various times during the season. In February 2022, you will be able to see the programs for our 41st Season on our website.

Presenter: Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival

Designer: Drew English

25. "Hairpin Curves on Old Mountain Roads"


Presenter: Wild Azalea Garden Club
Designer: Nancy Jamison

26. "A 'Place' For the Artist"


A PLACE is important in history. Stories bring PLACES to life and every story begins in a PLACE. And every PLACE has a story to tell.

The artists that travelled to this magical healing PLACE we call Highlands captured the stories in sculpture, painting, photography, and poetry. Highlands became the PLACE for many artists to work since the late 1800’s.

This vignette attempts to honor one of the landscape tableaux of John Jay Smith and Jennie M. Burlingame. The pair created this natural scene in 1929 using native material such as moss, lichens, ferns, bark and hornet nests.

Presenter: Lisa Dailey of Cultivation Competition

27. "Snow Mound for Christmas"


Years ago, a family living in Highlands made a snow mound every Christmas. It was their family tradition to create the snow mound on the dining room table to which ribbons were attached. After the meal, each member gently pulled a ribbon extending to their place setting and found little treasures.

A write up on one family’s tradition was given out at a Tour of Highlands homes, and some visitors adopted this tradition. Today, we have recreated a snow mound and placed names of early settlers and important citizens who have contributed to the development of Highlands.

Presenter: Laurel Garden Club
Designer: Tink Crawford, Sally Caffery, Helen Moore, Cathy Crosby, Adele Scielzo