‘Heads in beds’

Old Timers Day draws early, enthusiastic crowd

The Townsend Old Timers Day and Fall Heritage Festival is scheduled as a two-day event. Someone apparently didn’t tell the musicians, and they got started early, said Herb Handly, vice president of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“Thursday evening we had a good crowd even though the festival hadn’t started. They were getting things cranked up on their own. A lot of musicians came in, got on the porch and started playing,” Handly said.

The visitors bureau vice president said that tells him that festival-goers have added a couple extra days onto the event at the front end simply because they want to. “What that tells us is people are coming in earlier, and in some cases, on Wednesday, and they’re staying Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” he said. “It used to be people stayed Friday and Saturday. That’s always a plus.”

Handly said the Oct. 1 and 2 event went extremely well, in large part because of good weather. “It was probably one of the better events we’ve had in a long time. We had great sunshine Friday and Saturday and the weather couldn’t have been better. I also think people seem to be out on the road so that’s always a favorable thing when people are willing to travel,” he said.

Handly said 30 to 50 percent of people who attended the festival are from out of state. “The momentum, it was tipped off on Friday. The folks started piling in earlier than usual, and by noon on Friday, we had almost a Saturday crowd. The next day, it was the same way,” he said. “That momentum got started earlier, and we had people coming in all day long.”

Handly said people stayed a while at the Visitor’s Center and then moved on. “We always had available parking. We had enough people coming and going so we always had some place to park them,” he said. “Traffic was backed up at one time to Kinzel Springs with folks trying to get into the Visitors Center, so it was an unsually big day for us. It seemed the crowd was pleased with what was going on and what was offered.”

Handly said two award-winning cloggers were showcased. “We have a big audience for clogging. That’s something we’ve learned the last couple of years. People either come to dance or watch the dancers,” he said. “We’ve really focused our attention on how do we enhance that part of the festival.”

Folks are already planning for next year. “I’ve had numerous calls from people saying they want to come back next year so they want to book reservations right now,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about -- putting heads in beds -- and obviously we’re being successful with this event.”

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