Ever wanted to immerse yourself in Appalachian culture, hike with a park ranger, learn about mountain crafts, or see the largest catfish ever caught in Tennessee? For anyone who does, the Townsend Winter Heritage Festival in Townsend is the place to be.
Appalachian heritage is one of the many reasons nearly 10 million people travel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year. To celebrate that heritage, four days are set aside in Townsend each winter to celebrating its unique culture.
The Winter Heritage Festival, held from Feb. 4 to 7 in Townsend, will feature native Appalachian families, experts on the history and heritage of the area, local artisans, authors, musicians and other community leaders. All will share their personal understanding of the heritage of Cades Cove and the Smoky Mountains.
“The festival is a hands-on event that allows locals and visitors to experience the history of our community and learn about the families of Cades Cove directly from the families who have lived here for generations,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and for anyone who is interested in the human history of our region, there are a variety of activities planned that will be of interest.”
The foundation of the festival is the human history, natural beauty and cultural traditions of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, with specific emphasis on Townsend and Cades Cove. The festival is held at various locations throughout Townsend and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and visitors and locals alike participate in classes, tours, exhibits, music, hikes and demonstrations.
The event will begin at Tremont with a program by Sparky and Rhonda Rucker featuring “Mountain Voices.” The reception will also have music by Pistol Creek Catch of the Day.
Another integral part of the festival is the Mountain Craft Showcase, held at the Townsend Visitors Center, which will feature woodworking, spinning, basketry and pottery demonstrations. Guests will be able to watch skilled artisans in their craft and visit with them about their work. There will also be a concert by TNT Dulcimer Trio and a special program with Bob Fulcher, an expert in the field of mountain music folklore, banjo player and park manager for the Cumberland Trail State Park. Fulcher hosts a WDVX radio program called “The Cumberland Trail,” which features musicians from the region.
The Smoky Mountain Heritage Center will host several talks and exhibits from the Cades Cove Preservation Association. These talks will educate guests about the history of Cades Cove and the people who called it home.
“The speakers at this year’s event are truly the experts in their fields,” Handly said. “What they contribute to the festival is not only educational, but essential in sustaining Appalachian culture for generations to come.”
The Little River Railroad Museum will also host tours and walks as part of the Winter Heritage Festival. Walks to Elkmont and Townsend will take place on Friday, Feb. 5, and walks featuring Tremont and Whistle Over the Mountains will take place on Saturday, Feb. 6.
The festival also has special programs for Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night, Butch McDade, a retired park ranger, will lead an “Owl Prowl” through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Saturday night, at the Barn Event Center, there will be a barbecue supper and barn dance with music by “The Lost Hounds of Pumpkin Hollow” string band.
The Blount County Historical Museum will also hold special hours as part of the festival. Current exhibits include “Pre-History, History, and Peoples of the Park” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Park. This exhibit includes artifacts loaned by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park service from the “Secret City” collection, which were gathered in the park and carefully stored over 75 years ago. The museum also has Native American artifacts and even the largest catfish ever caught and recorded in Tennessee waters.
Most programs are free (except for those with meals), but pre-registration is required to attend as space is limited. Registration deadline is Monday, Jan. 25.
The Winter Heritage Festival was given the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History and is designated as one of the Top 20 Events by the Southeast Tourism Society. The event is sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association, Big Meadow Family Campground, Byron’s Printing, the Smoky Mountain Convention & Visitors Bureau and Miss Lily’s Cafe. Hosts include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Little River Railroad Museum, Cades Cove Preservation Association, Cades Cove Heritage Tours, Miss Lily’s Banquet Hall, The Barn Event Center of the Smokies and the Valley View Lodge.
For more information or to register, visit smokymountainfestivals.org, or call the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau at 865-448-6134 or 1-800-525-6834.
Schedule of Events Winter Heritage Festival February 4-7, 2010
Thursday, Feb. 4:
At Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
• 7 to 9 p.m. -- Kick Off program: “Mountain Voices” with Sparky and Rhonda Rucker. Reception and Social with music by Pistol Creek; Light hors d’oeuvres.
Sponsor: Great Smoky Mountains Association. Call for reservations 865-448-6709, Fee: $10.
Friday, Feb. 5
At the Townsend Visitors Center
• 9 to 9:45 a.m. -- The Prehistory of Tuckaleechee Cove, presented by Dr. Boyce Driskell, University of Tennessee Archeologist
• 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Old Fashioned Photos, presented by Mary Grace and Bud McCaffery
• 10:15 to 11 a.m. -- Discover Life in America: The Smokies’ Heritage of Natural Diversity, presented by Todd Witcher, Director, DLIA
• 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. -- The Walker Sisters, presented by Butch McDade, Park Ranger, retired
• 12 to 5 p.m. -- Depart for Cades Cove Heritage Tour to meet Ranger Mike for CCC program in Cades Cove. Call for reservations: 865-448-8838.
• 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. -- Ann Davis and the beginnings of the Park, presented by Robin Goddard, Smokies Park Volunteer
• 12 p.m. or meet at Trailhead at 1 p.m. Hike departs from front porch: The Summer Community at Elkmont, presented by Herb Handly, executive vice president of Tourism, Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau
• 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. -- GSMNP’s Natural History Collections, presented by Curator Adriean Mayor
• 4 to 7 p.m. -- Townsend Visitors Center Volunteer Appreciation Open House. Fellowship, hot drinks, snacks and music by the Woodpickers
At Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:
• 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. -- Cades Cove Preservation Association, “Cades Cove Forge,” presented by Dwight McCarter
• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- “Families of Cades Cove” Exhibits
• 10 to 11 a.m. -- “The Joe Gregory Story,” presented by Inez McCauley Adams
• 12:30. to 1:30 pm. -- “Granny Women of the Cove,” presented by Dr. Gail Palmer
• 2 to 3 p.m. -- “Growing Up in Cades Cove,” presented by Bernard Myers
• 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. -- “Cades Cove Today and Yesterday,” presented by Missy Tipton Green
At Little River Railroad Museum:
• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- Walking Tour of Elkmont, led by Raymond Palmer, board member
• 3 to 4 p.m. -- Walking Tour of Townsend, led by Don Headrick, board member
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
• 1:30 to 3 p.m. -- “Company Camp 1214: The CCC of Cades Cove,” presented by Mike Maslona, park ranger
• 7 to 9 p.m. -- “Owl Prowl,” presented by Butch McDade, park ranger, retired
At Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
• 9 to 11 a.m. -- “Home in Walker Valley,” a walk and talk with Jeremy Lloyd. Meet at the Tremont Office
• 2 to 4 p.m. -- “Salamander Foray,” with Tremont Teacher/Naturalist. Meet at the Tremont Office
At Miss Lily’s Banquet Hall
• 12:30 to 2 p.m. -- “What Do They Do at The Springs: East Tennessee Resorts of the Early 1900s,” presented by Mary Fanslow. Call for reservations: 865-448-1924, $12 per person.
At Mary Tippett Memorial Library
• 2 to 4 p.m. -- “Myers Lane,” book signing by Marilyn Myers Byrd
• Blount County Historical Museum in Maryville will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be an open house on Friday until 8 p.m. and one of Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
• Cades Cove/Thompson-Brown House in Maryville will have the museum open Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6
At Townsend Visitors Center
• 9 to 11:45 a.m. -- Mountain Craft Showcase: oodturning, Woodcarving, Dough Bowl Making, Basketry, Spinning, Pottery
• 9 a.m. -- Hike departs from front porch: “Walker Sisters Homestead,” led by Butch McDade
• 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Old-Fashioned Photos by Mary Grace and Bud McCaffery, in front of the hearth.
• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Apple Cider Making Demonstration and Hot Cider in the Pavilion
• 1 to 5 p.m. -- Depart for Cades Cove Heritage Tour around the Loop with expert guide. Fee: $15, $13 Senior. Call 865-448-8838 for reservations.
• 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. -- Concert by TNT Dulcimer Trio
• 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. -- Mountain Music and Mountain People, presented by Bob Fulcher, Tennessee State Parks
• 4 to 4:45 p.m. -- Horace Kephart and the Smokies, presented by Butch McDade
At Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
• 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. -- “Happy Valley: A Living Part of Cades Cove,” presented by Jim Phillips
• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- “Families of Cades Cove” exhibits
• 10 to 11 a.m. -- “The Historic Myers Family and Cemetery,” presented by Marilyn Myers Byrd
• 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. “Understanding the Old with the New: Archeological Techniques Used to Identify and Preserve Cades Cove’s Past,” presented by Erik Kreusch
• 2 to 3 p.m. -- “Family Life in the Good Old Days,” presented by Verna Burchfield Myers
• 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. -- “Nathan Sparks: A Cades Cove Frontiersman, 1828-1891,” presented by Larry Sparks
At Little River Railroad Museum
(All programs meet at the Museum)
• 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. -- Walking Tour of Tremont, led by Ron Briggs, board member
• 3 to 4 p.m. -- “Whistle Over the Mountain,” led by Jim Thurston, board member
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park
• 2 to 3:30 p.m. -- “The Oliver Family of Cades Cove: A sense of place,” presented by Ann Schlichting, Park Ranger (Meet at the John Oliver Cabin)
At Miss Lily’s Banquet Hall
• 12:30 to 2 p.m. -- “Weather Folklore,” presented by Ila Hatter. Sponsored by Miss Lily’s. Call for reservations: 865-448-1924, $12 per person.
At The Barn Event Center
• 6 to 9 p.m. -- Barbecue Supper and Barn Dance with “The Lost Hounds of Pumpkin Hollow” string band. Sponsor: Great Smoky Mountains Association. Call for reservations 865-448-3812. Fee: $25 per person.
Sunday, Feb. 7
At Valley View Lodge
• 2 to 4 p.m. -- “Precious Memories III”
At the Townsend Visitors Center
• 1 to 5 pm. -- Depart for Cades Cove Heritage Tour around the Loop with expert guide. Fee: $15, $13 Senior. Call 865-448-8838 for reservations.