Smokies blossom at the Townsend Spring Festival

The seasons have changed and it’s time to celebrate the arrival of spring at the 18th Annual Townsend in the Smokies Spring Festival April 30-May 1, 2010. But with all the music, storytelling, arts and craft demonstrations and old-fashioned Southern food, it’s more than a celebration of Spring—it’s a celebration of Appalachian culture.

“The festival is an amazing event because it brings all ages together to learn about and enjoy Appalachian culture,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB). “The heart of the festival is definitely the music and the local artisans, but the experience of seeing all the different aspects of Appalachian culture in one place is the best part.”

“Old Timer’s Day,” which will be held Saturday, May 1, will be a day filled with events for both the young and the old including bluegrass music concerts and the Young Pickers Talent Competition, where young musicians will compete for prizes and braggin’ rights. In addition, there will be old fashioned kids’ games, a family art fair, and storytelling.

Bluegrass music fills porch and grounds

The heart of the festival is the bluegrass music, and hundreds of musicians gather to perform on stage and also for informal jam sessions in every nook and cranny of the festival grounds. Visitors are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs to sit back, relax and enjoy the music from 12 to 10 p.m. on April 30 and May 1.

For musicians under 17, the Young Pickers Talent Competition will be held on Saturday, May 1 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. The event, sponsored by Pick N Grin, Kaufman Acoustic Kamp, Rocky Branch Community Club, Music Row, Digital Express, WDVX, Murlin’s Music World, and Pokey’s, will give young folks the opportunity to showcase their talents for prize money, ribbons, and most importantly, bragging rights.

Visitors will find special musical activities both Friday and Saturday evening of the Festival. The Knoxville Pipes and Drums will perform a concert and parade to celebrate Scottish heritage Friday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. and a square dance with caller Don Tipton and music by the Carolina Bluegrass Boys Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m. Additionally, the East Tennessee Old Harp Singers will perform Old Harp Sing from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on May 1.

Arts, crafts, history and Appalachian demonstrations make for memories

The festival lawn will be covered with arts and crafts booths and local artisans demonstrating their crafts. This year’s Appalachian demonstrations will include: Mountain Berry Basket making and poetry, hand-carved wooden bowl making, a beehive observation, cornmeal making, a moonshine still and herb gardening. Additionally, visitors can learn about the heritage of Cades Cove from the Cades Cove Preservation Association exhibits, and about one of the Smokies most renowned animals at the Appalachian Bear Center activity booth. Arts and crafts demonstrations will include: basketry, woodcarving, quilting, rug hooking, weaving, spinning, apple head doll making and charcoal/pencil art. Visitors can also try their hand at clogging with a demonstration and instruction at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 30.

For those interested in antique machinery, the Foothills Tractor Club will have a wide assortment of lovingly restored old tractors and engines on display April 30 and May 1.

Local authors and storytellers entertain crowds

Storytelling is a tradition as old as the Smoky Mountains, and at the spring festival, local storytellers will educate and entertain visitors on Saturday May, 1 from 12 to 3:30 p.m. This year’s local storytellers include Lendel Abbott, Dwight McCarter, Robin Goddard, and special guest Kate Agmann of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild.

Additionally, there will be book-signings with Jeremy Lloyd, author of “Home in Walker Valley,” on April 30 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and with Loletta Clouse, author of “Mallie” on May 1 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Young folks’ activities give plenty to do

Although there are events for both adults and children to enjoy at the spring festival, there are special events geared toward kids. On Friday morning, there will be a Family Art Fair with activities led by the Townsend Artisan Guild and pottery with Carol Ware in the Storytelling Tent. Then, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 1, there will be old-fashioned kids’ games, which include everything from walking on stilts to bean bag games, see-saws, face-painting, and more.

Wildflower experiences show off beauty of nature

At several times during the festival, visitors can participate in wildflower walks, nature hikes and garden tours led by area historians and nature experts. These activities are limited in space, and reservations are recommended. Please call the Townsend Visitors Center at (865) 448-6134 for details and reservations.

Wildflower walks to Chestnut Top Trail will take place on April 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. with Dwight McCarter, retired park ranger and author of the book “Lost”, and from 1:30 to 3:30 with Tom Harrington, local naturalist and National Park Volunteer. Visitors can also see Hedgewood Gardens, a private garden located on five and a half acres featuring more than 500 species of wildlife, including flowers, blooming trees, vines and shrubs, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 30 and at 2 p.m. on May 2.

Cake raffle and bake sale offer tasty treats

A festival tradition, the cake raffle and bake sale, will go on throughout the day on April 30 and May 1 to raise money for the Hearts and Hands Scholarship fund. And of course, there will be lots of other good food—from BBQ to beans and corn bread to kettle corn to ice cream. The Chamber of Commerce hot dog booths, staffed by Festival Volunteers, will serve hot dogs, drinks, popcorn, and chips.

The Townsend in the Smokies festivals are green events, where visitors are encouraged to dispose of their trash properly to “leave no trace.” With the help of Keep Blount Beautiful and Spectra, Inc., recycling containers for plastic bottles and aluminum cans are placed throughout the festival grounds. Proceeds will go to the Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund.

The festival takes place on the grounds of the Townsend Visitors Center, located 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, in Townsend, Tenn. For more information on the Townsend In the Smokies Spring Festival, including updates on the schedule, please call the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at 865-448-6134 or visit www.smokymountains.org or www.smokymountainfestivals.org.

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