The classic folk dance has been part of life for more than 300 years.

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Depending on who you’re asking, North Carolina’s most famous export might be Cheerwine soda, Krispy Kreme donuts, or even modern aviation. But for a lot of locals—especially those in the western half of the state—one of North Carolina’s proudest traditions is clogging. Clogging originated in the Smoky Mountains during the Colonial era as a blend of different settlers’ dancing traditions, and has been a popular social activity (and more recently, competition) ever since.

Clogging itself is a bit of a “melting pot” dance, borrowing movements and styles from traditional English, Scottish, Irish, African, and Native American folk dances. The word “clog” comes from the Gaelic word for time, which is fitting given the rhythmic nature of clogging footwork that becomes part of the performance thanks to the resounding tap-like shoes dancers wear.

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Clogging remained a mostly individual or group dance done in social settings until 1928, when it was added as a new category of team dance competition at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville. Becoming a competitive dance put clogging on the map, and its popularity has grown exponentially since, with groups appearing on national competition shows like America’s Got Talent as well as the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Olympics.

But clogging’s ties to North Carolina have remained strong. You can find clogging competitions and festivals across the state, from the state fair in Raleigh to Maggie Valley’s Stompin’ Ground Dance Hall—the self-proclaimed clogging capital of the world. Clogging is even one of the state’s official dances—the other, naturally, is the Carolina Shag.

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