Take a trip to Townsend this weekend. You won’t lack for entertainment.
You can chase a pig, learn a little railroad history, buy some crafts, listen to some music and watch demonstrations from pioneer days. Townsend Days combines four events of music, food, Appalachian arts and crafts, historical demonstrations and games and activities to keep folks busy, said Jeanie Hilten, special events coordinator for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It is really nice to have ‘Townsend Days’ with the combination of our festival at the Visitor’s Center with the bluegrass music, demonstrations and arts and crafts with the Blue Ribbon Country Fair at the Heritage Center, the Railroad Days at the Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum and the Nawger Nob’s arts and craft show. It makes for a well-rounded weekend with a great array of activities,” she said.
Hilten said having the management at all four venues working together makes for a better weekend. “It is crucial for everybody to work together because it is something we do, not only for visitors, but for the community as well,” she said.
Hilten said The Townsend Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day provide a unique way to learn, experience and enjoy Appalachian culture and what makes East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountain area so special.
“Many visitors come to the mountains in the fall to enjoy the beautiful autumn scenery. After visiting the festival, they leave with a new appreciation for and perspective on the people, the traditions and the history of these mountains,” she said. “And, that’s why we do it - to show visitors, including younger generations, our community’s personality and the traditions that make us who we are.”
This is the 19th year for the festival, which will be held on the grounds of the Townsend Visitors Center. In keeping with tradition, the event will focus on bluegrass and mountain music, along with traditional dances such as clogging and square dance, art and craft booths, Appalachian demonstrations, Southern food and an antique tractor show featuring tractors and engines from the Foothills Tractor Club.
Additionally, this year’s festival will feature some new activities, including a dulcimer workshop and lively concert by TNT Dulcimer Band.
The festival includes bluegrass concerts all day Friday and Saturday. There will be performances on stage, as well as on the porch and throughout festival grounds. Many of the musical performances also include clogging, and festival-goers who want to join in the dancing will have the opportunity to participate in a square dance Saturday night at 8 p.m.
There will be traditional storytelling with featured guest Kathryn Atkins-Roberson; book signings with cookbook author Barbara Swell, Liles Acres Organic Farm’s llamas, the Smoky Mountain Classic Thunderbird Club and cast iron cooking demonstrations by the members of the Blount County Fire Protection District.
The Blount County Fire Protection District will be performing cast iron cooking demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24. Visitors will enjoy cast-iron-cooked fruit cobblers, and proceeds will go to “Coats for Our Community.”
Author Barbara Swell, who has written many cookbooks about Smoky Mountain cooking, will be on hand. Bill Lea, a wildlife and Cades Cove photographer, will be at the festival on Saturday.
Hilten said folks who enjoy mountain and bluegrass music will want to be at the Visitors Center to hear the acts Charlie Monday has set up. “We have some new bands, and Charlie has lined us up with lot of the old favorites,” said Hilten. “And we have a new featured storyteller, Kathryn Roberson.”
Hilten said the folks won’t need to worry about packing a lunch with all the food vendors who will be on hand. “There will be a lot of good food and a lot of local charitable organizations benefit from the festival, too,” she said. “We feel like this is something that is a benefit to the community and is a great way for people to relax and learn a little bit about Smoky Mountain heritage.”
Fried Twinkies and barbecue will be featured at a booth that is raising money for Townsend Elementary School.
“There are activities for people to come and do. They can visit with craft people and personal demonstrations, and they can participate. This is definitely for all members of the family.”
Hilten said folks coming to the Visitors Center from Maryville should turn off East Lamar Alexander Parkway onto Myers Road. Parking is just off Myers Road.
Blue Ribbon Country Fair
About a mile down the road at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, the Blue Ribbon Country Fair will be in full swing on Saturday.
This is the fifth annual Blue Ribbon Country Fair at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, said Nancy Williams, marketing director at the Heritage Center. “This show just gets bigger and bigger. This will be the second year for the cattle show. We also are expanding the children’s interactive exhibit called Farmer in the Cove,” she said. “It is a collection of simulated experiences your children can enjoy and get a feel for what farm families did in the mid-19th century by doing things like sweeping the cabin porch, doing hand laundry, digging potatoes, getting eggs. It gives the young visitors the chance to see how things were done in the past.”
Admission to the Blue Ribbon Country Fair is $4 per person, and free to GSMHC members and young visitors age 6 and younger. The fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24.
Special guest at this year’s fair is Bill Landry, the popular host of WBIR TV’s “The Heartland Series.” Landry will make a presentation in the amphitheater at 11:30 a.m. and be on hand until 3 p.m. to talk with visitors and sign copies of his new book.
The day will feature competition in Student Art, Student Metal/Woodworking, Honey, Floral Design, Produce/Vegetables, Canning, Baked Goods, Chickens and Cattle.
Fun contests open to the public include Watermelon Seed Spitting, Catch the Greased Pig Contest (for children), Hog Calling, Rooster Crowing, Crow-Like-A-Rooster and the Ladies Skillet Throw. Visitors may sign up for these contests on the show grounds the day of the event.
Historic demonstrations will be a part of the day’s activities and will feature such skills as open hearth cooking, iron forging, making corn husk dolls, basket making and much more.
At Nawger Nob, a collection of arts and craft booths will be set up all around the “Nob,” for visitors to buy arts and crafts and watch demonstrations.
Nawger Nob is located at 7321 East Lamar Alexander Parkway and their arts and crafts show is from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25.
The Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum is on East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend. Admission is free and hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Call 865-448-2211 for information.
For more information about all Townsend Days activities at either the Townsend Visitors Center, The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, the Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum or the Nawger Nob Arts and Crafts Show, visit smokymountains.org and click on the Events and Festivals key.