Spring 2019 Festivals

Townsend Spring Festival & Old Timers Day
May 3-4
Each Spring and Fall Townsend celebrates its rich Appalachia history through music, crafts and foods. This free event includes two days of Bluegrass music, handmade crafts and food. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy all of the Spring Festivities for the entire family at the Townsend Visitor’s Center.
Parking is $10 per day or $15 for a two-day pass. Proceeds benefit the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department. Parking passes may be purchased at the Townsend Visitor Center (7906 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy., Townsend), the Maryville Welcome Center (201 S. Washington St., Maryville) or at the parking gate on event days.

New Midland Plaza Spring Craft Fair
May 10-11
Up-cycled & recycled creative art, photography, candles, soaps, jewelry, paintings, hand-sewn items, sculptures, quilts, glassware, knitted novelties, crocheting, woodworking, & much more are showcased at one of the largest and most enjoyed craft fairs in the region. Enjoy unique and yummy food offerings from multiple food trucks, & local participants like the fire & police departments.
It’s two days of family friendly fun!

Come Celebrate Our Historical Railroad Heritage
Niota Model Railroad Show
May 4-5
Niota, Tennessee is home to the oldest railroad depot, built in 1854. Originally named Mouse Creek Station, it is the oldest standing depot in the State of Tennessee and one of the oldest in America.
During the Civil War it was used by both the Confederate and Union soldiers as a place of safety and rest. Today, the depot is owned by the City of Niota and used by city departments.
This May 4th – 5th, the depot will host the 2nd annual Niota Model Railroad Show, a free to the public event showcasing train model exhibitors and vendors from around Tennessee and beyond. Last year’s inaugural event featured around 400 businesses from cities including Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Crossville, Knoxville, and Maryville.
The event will be held at the Niota Depot and the Memorial Building- Saturday, May 4th 2019 9am-5pm and Sunday, May 5th 2019 10am-4pm.

Lenoir City Arts & Crafts Festival
June 1-2
The 57th Annual Lenoir City Arts & Crafts Festival will be held in beautiful Lenoir City Park on June 1st and 2nd, and it promises to be better than ever! The quality of the event and superb reputation of the 240 crafters have made this one of the area’s most popular events. Items range from ceramics and glassware to metal work and jewelry,to baskets and much more! A wide array of fast food and home baked delicacies will be available throughout the festival. Your taste buds will delight in old favorites and new flavors. And plenty of cold beverages to satisfy a summer thirst!

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Smoky Mountain Lights

The Lampyridae are a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged soft-bodied beetles, commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous use of bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates or prey.Did you know that Tennessee is one of the only places in the world that is home to a rare type of firefly? They light up together, completely in sync with each other. Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. Once fireflies reach the age for which they can fly around and light up, they only live for about 21 days. That means the phenomenon that happens in Tennessee is only viewable for about three weeks per year.The largest population of these synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere is right here, close to home at Elkmont Campground. Every year, in late May and early June, the Elkmont fireflies (sometimes also referenced to as Sugarlands Visitor Center fireflies) light up the sky. Located eight miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Elkmont Campground is the largest and busiest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At an elevation of 2,150 feet, the area enjoys a moderate climate, characterized by mild winters and hot, humid summers.For the last few years the National Park Service has used a lottery system to allow only 1,800 cars to park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center during the 8-day event (225 per day). The lottery works like this: You apply on their page during the three-day application period, choosing two possible dates that you would like to attend. About a week later you will receive notice whether your application was accepted or not. If you were accepted you will pay a $20 reservation fee. On the day you are scheduled for, you will show your ID and your parking pass at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Then you will board a trolley for Elkmont Campground.If you are not fortunate enough to score parking passes for the main event at Elkmont, don’t be discouraged. Consider visiting within three days either side of the event when passes are not required. The synchronous fireflies can also be found at the backend of Cades Cove (near the Abrams Falls trailhead) or at Cataloochee Valley. It also appears in recent years that the famous fireflies are showing up in surrounding locations, so as the time approaches stay in touch with your local media outlets or the internet to learn about other locations.Most of us have memories of running around outside on summer nights to watch and catch the fireflies lighting up around us. The synchronous fireflies event is a memory of a lifetime. If you want to experienced it make plans this year to light up your life.

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2019 Memphis in May Festival

Each May Memphis brings the world to Memphis to experience one of the largest festivals in North America. They have something for everyone – from lectures and exhibits, to movie screenings and our core events. Attendees come from all 50 states and several foreign countries during the month of May to our city, one that’s rich in history and experience. This year the focus of the 2019 Memphis in May International Festival will be Memphis and Shelby County. This s a break from the tradition of honoring international countries. This year they celebrate Memphis’ bicentennial and the start of a new century for the city and county.Memphis in May is the official festival ofthe City of Memphis, the recipient of 206 prestigious Pinnacle Awards from the International Festival and Events Association, and has been named to Travel +Leisure’s International List of Festivals Worth Traveling For. The Beale Street Music Festival was named one of the World’s Top Festivals by Fest300.Memphis in May hosts the city’s largest events like the Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.Celebrate Memphis has been added to the Festival lineup, promising to be spectacular salute during the month-long event. On May 25, Celebrate Memphis will honor the past and celebrate the future with the music, food and art that make this part of Tennessee unique.Memphis in May salutes Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, celebrating 200 years and a new century of soul!www.memphisinmay.org

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22nd Annual National Cornbread Festival

On April 27th and 28th of 2019, over 27,000 festival-goers from throughout the southeast gather in South Pittsburg to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the 23rd Annual National Cornbread Festival. Located 30 miles west of Chattanooga, TN, this quaint southern town hosts a celebration of cornbread, often considered the cornerstone of southern cuisine.
In 1996, the National Cornbread Festival started to promote civic engagement and help local businesses. Lodge, local maker of world-class cast iron cookware seemed the perfect fit for a food-oriented festival. The community created a non-profit organization with volunteers, businesses and organizations joining in to produce the first annual festival in 1997.
Now over 350+ community volunteers of all ages put on this wonderful festival every year. Over 15+ committees drive the planning and execution of this fun-filled weekend. All proceeds are distributed into the community through donations and other improvement projects. To date they have built and supported athletic facilities, supported boy scouts, schools and day cars, donated to theaters, churches and libraries, restored historical buildings and much more.
The festival is packed with great family fun including a Kid’s Corner with games, face painting, and inflatables. There are games, carnival rides, and booths hosting cornbread, handmade crafts, honey, fudge and rock candies that line the streets of historic South Pittsburg, live entertainment throughout the festival with tours of the historic homes and the Lodge® Cast Iron Foundry as well.
Major events during the festival include the National Lodge® Cast Iron Cornbread Cook- off, Cornbread 5K race, Classic Car Cruise-in and Cornbread Eating Contests. The best part is strolling down Cornbread Alley to taste amazing variations of this staple of southern cuisine.
Feeling creative…give it try! Take this basic three ingredient cornbread recipe and add you own special touch like cheese, bacon, peppers, oranges, or add them all. Bake your amazing original cornbread to your family’s delight!

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Presidential Visit: June 22, 2019

The 43rd President of the United States will be the featured speaker at the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual benefit, June 22, 2019. The event will be held at McMinn County High School. The proceeds from this event will go toward downtown businesses and the chamber, which was heavily damaged by fire in 2017.

Bush’s visit to Athens will mark the first time since 1985 that a U.S. president has visited the McMinn County seat, when President Ronald Reagan spoke from the courthouse steps.

Visit www.athenschamber.org for more information and to purchase your tickets to An Evening with George W. Bush.

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Wooly Worm Festival

If you’re looking for a family-friendly festival that’s maybe not warm but certainly offers lots of fuzzy, look no further than the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk! The festival originated from regional folklore about woolly worms – those fuzzy little caterpillars – being used to forecast the weather and a need to help drive local tourism to the area. The concept? An annual festival where they would pit woolly worm against woolly worm in a race to see which one could be trusted the most to predict the weather.

The first year was very cold, so the worms didn’t go very fast, and there were only three or four vendors. The event has since grown over 40+ years to now having 160 vendors and hundreds of people who come out each year. The event costs $6 for adults, $4 for children (ages 6-12) and children 5 and under are free. All proceeds go back to the community.

For more information, visit www.woollyworm.com.

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Sequoyah Birthplace Museum

The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore opened in 1986 to promote the understanding and appreciation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians history and culture. The centerpiece being the life and contributions of Sequoyah, creator of the Cherokee Writing System. While enlisted in the War of 1812, Sequoyah became to understand the power of written word. After the war, with no ability to read or write himself, Sequoyah started his work to create a writing and writing system for the Cherokee language. In 1821, after 12 years of work, Sequoyah introduced his syllabary to the Cherokee people. Within months thousands of Cherokee became literate. By 1828 they were publishing the “Cherokee Phoenix”, the first national bilingual newspaper. Sequoyah was awarded a silver medal by the Cherokee Nation for his contributions and service to the Cherokee people, a dedication he continued as a statesman and diplomat until his death.

For the past thirty years, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum has successfully promoted this history, the continued goal of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for the museum. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum has completed the major renovation that began last year. The new museum experience includes the latest audio-visual technology bringing the Cherokee Nation and the man, Sequoyah to life. Innovative exhibits are now enjoyed within the two main theaters, assorted audio-visual programs throughout and life-cast figures created from living models to present Sequoyah in age progression from 10 years old to about 45 years of age. The new collection of artifacts and engaging exhibits illustrates the forward thinking of this great man and takes each visitor back in time unfolding history.

The 2.7 Million Dollar Renovation Is Complete!

Advanced media technologies and electronics enhance visitors’ enjoyment of this all new exhibit. It portrays the Cherokee life and the legacy of Sequoyah in an all new multi-million dollar remodeled museum open now! The modern museum includes videos, dioramas, new additions to the Native American artifacts, paintings and interactive tools telling the story of this great man and the Cherokee Indian people.

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33rd Annual Englewood Celebrates to Feature the Saginaw Sweet Corn Festival

As far back as the 1930s, there are documented instances of locals referring to the small town of Englewood as Saginaw. While the nickname is deeply rooted in the town’s history, there appears to be no one who can give a definitive answer as to its origin. Nevertheless, the name has stuck and over the decades and has been displayed on everything from Englewood School’s gym floor to shirts and uniforms. From time to time it has even been known to be the inspiration for some local body art.This well-known moniker will now have a place in the town’s yearly festival when the Community Action Group of Englewood puts a new spin on an established local favorite. As CAGE hosts the 33rd Annual Englewood Celebrates on June 30, 2018, they will feature a unique addition to the celebration called the Saginaw Sweet Corn Festival.The idea for the Sweet Corn Festival came after a conversation between CAGE members Gail Anderson and Frances Powers about “freshening up” Englewood Celebrates.“We are so proud of what Englewood Celebrates has become and how it has continued to grow,” Anderson said. “I just felt like it was a good time to do something outside of the box and really expand the event. Given Frances’ experience with Niota’s Fried Green Tomato Festival, I knew she would be the right person to consult.”Powers said she was very happy to offer suggestions and to help get the Sweet Corn Festival on its feet.“I told Gail that what I believed CAGE needed was a festival that highlighted some kind of southern cuisine,” Powers said.“It actually just came to me during our conversation that no town around us has a corn festival.”With sweet corn playing such a crucial role in southern life and Saginaw being a uniquely Englewood name that many locals connect with, the two felt like the idea was a homerun. After the initial meeting, Powers was off to the races to make the Saginaw Sweet Corn Festival in to a roaring success. The festival is expecting approximately 75 food and craft vendors, numerous musicians as well as the Peaches and Cream Beauty Pageant for young ladies. All food vendors will feature a sweet corn dish at their booths.CAGE Vice President and co-coordinator of the Sweet Corn Festival Bobbie Dickson, said she is especially enthusiastic about the increased number of vendors.“Having so many new merchants who are cooking and selling various items for the Sweet Corn Festival will really give Englewood Celebrates a larger feel,” Dickson said. “I think our regular festival-goers will be pleasantly surprised at the increased number of visitors at this year’s event.”Along with the many new things taking place at the 2018 Englewood Celebrates, attendees will also experience many of the traditional favorites such as the pancake breakfast, bluegrass music, tractor show, Sockhill 5K and the evening Square Dance on Main Street.Although there are many new additions to the festival, Anderson said Englewood Celebrates will serve the same purpose as it did 33 years ago.“Englewood Celebrates started as a part of the Tennessee Homecoming 1986 initiative by Governor Alexander to bring small towns together to celebrate their culture and history,” Anderson said. “While this year’s event will have a little bit different look it will have the same goal as it has had for over three decades. The people of Englewood never let us down, and I can’t wait see how many folks come out to celebrate with us.”The origin of Englewood’s nickname will continue to be debated and discussed for many years to come. Although the story of Saginaw will likely remain a mystery, it is the hope of the Community Action Group of Englewood that people will always remember when and where the Saginaw Sweet Corn Festival began and the positive and lasting effect it had on the town.

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Athens Area Children’s Choir

Every Monday night for an hour and a half, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is alive with the sounds of music. It is Athens Area Children’s Choir practice time and the young choral group takes it very seriously. They sing their hearts out striving for perfect harmony. Not a soul is pretending to sing. Directed by Ellen Kimball, with piano accompaniment provided by Tennessee Wesleyan music major Tristen Rowland, this choir excels and their bookings are increasing all the time.

Actually, this is the second version of the Athens Area Children’s Choir. The first was started by Ellen Kimball and Kay Simmons in the mid-nineties. Both had musically gifted children and Athens had no choir for children. They took their children to Knoxville to audition for the Knoxville Children’s Choir and all of them made it. Before they started Ellen and Kay, both working moms, were thinking that was going to be a LOT of driving, and why not start their own choir. So with a little help and guidelines from the Knoxville Choir, they began a journey that would thrive for several years. Kay directed and Ellen played the piano for 35 to 40 children grades 4-9. Says Ellen, “Those were great years for the choir. We had exceptionally talented kids who were eager to sing.”

Choir leadership changed over time and by the early 2000’s the AACC was no longer operating. However, one choir member never forgot how wonderful it was to be a part of such a great choir. Lauren Brown Shepherd had the chance to revive the children’s choir when she became the Executive Director of the Athens Area Council for the Arts. Lauren felt that being a member of the choir had been life-changing for her and she wanted children of this era to be able to have the same opportunity.

Today’s choir is beginning its second year with 26 very enthusiastic young members. To become a member you must first audition, which makes it an honor to be able to participate. According to Ellen, “these kids are ‘sponges.’ They learn music so quickly and are talented, smart, and ready to sing. The choir is learning many genres of music such as classical, spirituals, Broadway show tunes, pop, and they are even singing in different languages.”

The choir went to the Biltmore on November 26 to perform during their very popular Candlelight Tour. There they performed five times, 30 minutes each, from 5:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Biltmore has required that all music performed must have been written before 1940. They sang at the tree lighting at Old Fashioned Downtown Christmas on Friday, November 17, and on December 10 at the Sunday performance of Christmas and All That Jazz at the Arts Center.

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14th Annual Pumpkintown Festival

Pumpkintown is one of the premier fall festivals in East Tennessee and one of the largest annually attended events in McMinn County for 14 years! Pumpkintown celebrates the history, heritage and harvest unique to this area, with activities for all ages. This year’s event will be held Saturday, October 14th from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. in historic downtown Athens.

This year we’re excited to welcome the East Tennessee Corvette Club with forty cars on display. Christ’s Legacy Academy’s 5K run/1 mile fun walk makes its debut to the venue as well as the return of longtime favorites. Live entertainment on Market Park Pavilion stage and the Courthouse Steps Bluegrass Stage includes Shane Lowe, Stormy & Adrian, Reliance Bluegrass Band, Maziaah Mountain, September Song, Dreams of Kings, Athens Area Children’s Choir and Momentum Academy Dance.

Pumpkintown will also feature the heartfelt events it has become famous for. The famous McMinn Regional Humane Society’s Adopt-a-Thon, Mutt Strutt and Doggie Costume Contest; the Scott Crisp Memorial PowWow; and the Living Heritage Museum Quilt Show are back again along with over 200 craft, food and art vendors.

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