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East Tennessee Fall Festivals Celebrate Appalachian Culture

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East Tennessee River Valley National GeographicThe East Tennessee River Valley is steeped in centuries of tradition and Appalachian culture, and art forms have been developed and passed down for generations while staying alive through families in gospel and bluegrass music, arts and crafts, festivals, harvests, and heritage. The East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide, a partnership in sustainable travel with National Geographic celebrates the arts, culture, lifestyle, and overall Appalachian way of life through the promotion of events throughout the region.

Every fall, those in the East Tennessee River Valley anticipate festivals and homecomings celebrating the summer’s harvest, art, and traditional music. This year the Museum of Appalachia will celebrate its 34th Tennessee Fall Homecoming. This three-day event is packed with visitors from all over the world celebrating and embracing the culture and heritage of the Appalachian region. Visitors can meander through the picturesque museum grounds, stopping into historic log buildings to watch a demonstration or sit down in front of one of the five stages for performances to soak in gospel, bluegrass, mountain folk music, or old-time country music. This year the event will be held on October 11-13th.

The Museum of Appalachia is a non-profit organization devoted to preserving and promoting the heritage of this region through letting visitors experience what life was like for the pioneers in an old farming village replica filled with historical artifacts. President of the Museum, Elaine Meyer says, “We are incredibly blessed to be a part of this majestic region full of its rich history, beauty and intriguing mountain people; and the Museum is proud of its mission to tell the stories of our pioneer forebears, in their own words, and through the artifacts they left behind.”

The Townsend Fall Festival and Old Timer’s Day will be in full swing September 27-28th. Basket making, clogging, jewelry making, wood working, southern cooking, storytelling, and live music are just a few of the activities happening at this popular festival among locals and visitors from around the nation. With old-fashioned competitions, a tractor show, and back-porch jam sessions the whole family is sure to enjoy this festival. Visitors of historical Townsend can experience more of the Appalachian culture at the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center all year, and learn about the mountain way of life from the Native Americans, to the early settlers, and also see the work of local artists. The center will hold the Smoky Mountain Wood Carving Festival, a competition among all levels of carvers from around the country on October 5-6th.

In Polk County, TN the last weekend of October is the Benton Arts and Heritage Days. One of the main attractions of this event are the quilts. Exhibitors display their quilts in the Benton Courthouse where judges and visitors alike can scrutinize the traditional quilt designs and talent. This heritage festival hosts many singer songwriters, gospel music groups, demonstrations, food vendors, and arts and crafts.

Music is a vital part of East Tennessee, and the 6th Annual Louie Bluie Festival in Caryville celebrates the life of esteemed country and blues musician Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong with a day full of old-time music, storytelling, theater, crafts, and a “fun-zone” for the kids. This festival held at the Cove Lake State Park on September 28th plays host to competitions in quilting, visual arts, and best booth at the festival.

Visitors can also enjoy plenty of East Tennessee style home cooking from vendors.

Year-round the WDVX Blue Plate Special is a radio show that can be heard every Monday through Saturday at noon. WDVX 89.9FM is an independent radio station that specializes in displaying local talents in Knoxville’s rich musical roots. The Blue Plate Special plays live performances from visiting artists, and those in Knoxville can drop in to the studio at Visit Knoxville downtown to experience the music live for free.

The 42nd Annual Prater’s Mill Country Fair near Dalton, GA is celebrated every year on the second weekend of October. This outdoor fair’s main focuses are mountain music, Southern food, historical exhibits, and handmade crafts. Live demonstrations specializing in activities from blacksmithing to rug hooking, which eventually became the main industry in this region of Georgia. Prater’s Mill historic roots go back to 1855 and even at one point became a haven for Civil War Soldiers.

The Appalachian Quilt Trail unites many of these festivals and cultural heritage locations together through a network of hand-painted quilt patterns throughout the region representing a family, historical event, or story. By following one of 500 quilt patterns hand-painted on the sides of barns, art galleries, historic sites, businesses, or parks visitors of the East Tennessee region can enjoy the history and beautiful views linked through one of the most traditional art forms of the area.

These are only highlights from a vast wealth of events and sites. Take a look at the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide to learn more about these recreational opportunities other geotourism venues and adventures and find out what makes this region a National Geographic Destination.

The East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide, a partnership in sustainable travel and tourism with National Geographic, is an online planning guide to a region “Where Rivers and Mountains Meet,” from the Smoky Mountains through Knoxville, Chattanooga and North Georgia. The MapGuide is a program coordinated by the Southeast Watershed Forum, a nonprofit organization helping communities protect and enhance their land and water resources.

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