About Dean Watson

H. Dean Watson  is a heritage tourism, public relations consultant & venue developer with 30 years experience, folk historian & classically trained storyteller, scholar of world religions, upcountry tourism advocate, public speaker, spiritual teacher, folk musician, and consultant on the traditional folk music and culture of Upcountry South Carolina. He currently serves as a member of the Lake Hartwell Country Tourism Commission.

Dean is a high energy public speaker on various topics such as regional folklore, world religions, & Energy issues. He is also a public relations motivator, heritage tourism advocate and venue developer, as well as an event planner/marketing strategist for creative corporate and public events, churches, charity events, concerts, private parties, and vintage weddings.


  • BS in Biology/Chemistry from Furman University
  • 30 years experience in heritage tourism on various boards and commissions in our state
  • Effective teacher for special teachable moments over the last 20+ years
  • Contract benefits coach at a major chemical company
  • Social media & public relations consultant
  • 21 years since 1996 developing the successful Appalachian heritage venue at Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center in Pickens County.
  • Public Relations expertise, accomplished advocate & public speaker
  • Fundraising and Advocacy for non profits
  • 20 Plus years marketing /sales of financial services
  • Upcountry tourism consulting and advocacy
  • Passionate public speaker & classically trained storyteller
  • Event booker with working access to hundreds of musical & craft performers over the Southeast
  • Expertise in all forms of venue marketing including social media
  • Expertise as event planner, booker, and promoter
  • Creator and consultant for Heritage Tourism Venues
  • US Army veteran (officer, Chemical Corps)
  • Follow me on Twitter:  @hdeanwatson


Since joining the Pickens County Cultural Commission in 1992, Dean created the highly successful Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center in Pickens County, SC and built it into a major heritage tourism destination in the upstate. The Music in the Mountains Appalachian music program that he initiated spawned the South Carolina Old Time Fiddling Championship at Hagood Mill attended annually by thousands.

Dean was a member of the founding board for the South Carolina Heritage Corridor and as such contributed to numerous heritage tourism efforts to raise the awareness of upcountry South Carolina as a major tourism destination.

  • Currently serving as a commissioner on the Lake Hartwell Country, Crown of the Carolinas Tourism Commission.
  • Served on a rebuilding board for the Foothills Theater in mid to late 1980s.
  • Created Ghost Tour Like NO Other; A two hour tourism based ghost tour by lantern light of the old Hagood Mill Appalachian Settlement (vintage 1845) which was a very popular, sold out event in the Fall of 2016 and 2017 .
  • Promoter of Appalachian Folk Dance at Hagood Mill Historic Site and other locations.
  • Promoted and booked concerts at Southern Wesleyan University for a major regional tour of the New Harmonies Smithsonian traveling exhibit.
  • Organizer and booking planner for the Liberty Civic Auditorium concert series startup with celebrated gospel concert performer Karen Peck and New River in August,2016.
  • Served on the consulting panel that selects the Jean Laney Harris State Folk Heritage Award winners for the South Carolina Arts Commission and nominated five upstate traditional artists who received this prestigious award.
  • Frequent lecturer for Clemson & Furman University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute(OLLI) on such varied topics as Upcountry Regional Folklore, Energy Awakening (The Little Ice Age) , and Theology (The Axial Age: Early awakenings of most World Religions).
  • Co-founder with Wendy Marshall of Clemson University of the celebrated Piedmont Harmony Project, the largest folklife research program in the state of South Carolina.
  • Member, Network of Biblical Storytellers International (see storytelling)

Contact Dean:

864-979-7788 (cell)




“Pulsing with intense feeling! Immersed in the nuances of the story! You feel it! You see it! You hear it! You find yourself leaning forward! Dean Watson draws you into the biblical story with his multi-leveled drama by captivating your mind and your heart. And to top it all off, to engage him in conversation off stage is every bit as exhilarating! He is a unique blend of story teller, theologian, and pilgrim along the journey!”
-John Adams, Ph.D, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Easley, SC   864-979-8706

“ Last evening’s presentation was superb…Thanks for re-introducing Clarence Jordan to the saints at FBC Easley. The energy, creativity, humor and confrontational energy you brought was a needed reminder of the demands of discipleship”
-Dr Jim Pitts, Furman University Chaplain,  864-979-4128

“I have had the opportunity to work with Dean Watson on a variety of musical projects over the past ten years. He used his strong network within Appalachian music to develop an amazing “Music in the Mountains” series for Hagood Mill. When the challenge of funding for Music in the Mountains became an issue Dean Watson identified and secured sustainable sponsorship.

When the Smithsonian New Harmonies Roots music exhibit was displayed at Southern Wesleyan University, Dean Watson, developed over twenty-five dynamic musical performances which resulted in a tremendous Tourism impact.

Dean Watson is a people person who continues to bring dedication and forward thinking to any music or Tourism project in which he is involved.”
-Helen Hockwalt
Tourism & Marketing Director for Pickens County, SC (recently retired), (864) 979-4778

“Dean understands and appreciates the world of the folktale. By using his storytelling abilities, he takes you on a nostalgic journey through a simpler time. Dean’s voice and mannerisms draw you into his folktales, bringing the past to life.”
-Amanda R. Turner,   878-633-5242
Coordinator of Curriculum, Courses, and Classes, Clemson University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute www.clemson.edu/OLLI  

“Thank you for making this story(Polar Express) so special for our boys and girls. You told it beautifully. Merry Christmas!”
-Forrest Acres Kindergarten(Easley) students and teachers
December 1996 (a tradition at Forrest Acres Elem. School every Christmas).

“Students went back to their classes talking about the fun they had listening to your stories. Teachers were very pleased that their students had the experience. It was a highlight for our day. I feel that the educational part of the stories will have an impact in building background knowledge that will be evident back in the classroom. Students were learning and they didn’t even know it. Thank you again for coming to share with us. We would love to have you back again.”
-Sheila Martin
Media Specialist, R.C.Edwards Middle School, Clemson,SC

“Having seen and heard Dean Watson at a variety of venues over the years I can honestly say that he has the unique gift of captivating any audience with his persona, with his storytelling and with his music. Comfortable with all ages, Dean’s stories not only keep alive many of our old time traditions, but also teach great character traits. His banjo playing is always was fun and lively. Children become engaged in his performances, unable to hide their smiles as they listen. Youngsters, as well as the adults, will find themselves laughing one moment, and then pondering what they just heard the next.

I highly recommend that any school, workshop or performance venue partake of any opportunity to enjoy and benefit from Dean Watson’s generous offering of time and talent. You will be glad that you welcomed to your facility such a funny and inspirational storyteller who displays a passionate concern for our heritage, our faith and our children”
-Allen Coleman
Executive Director, Pickens County Museum of Art & History; Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center



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