The heritage of the region is told and preserved through its music. The small towns, hollers, and hills of the 9 Lakes Region produced some of this country’s best known musicians and performers including Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins, and Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong. Their music speaks to the social and political issues of the time and preserves these stories for future generations.
The mild spring breezes of March are the harbinger of festival season in the 9 Lakes Region. With the end of winter come the first outdoor festivals of the year. On March 21-24, The Big Ears Festival takes over Knoxville, showcasing over one hundred performances in a variety of venues including historic theatres, churches, museums, and outdoor spaces. This event weaves together music and art to create a visual and auditory experience that has been described as the “most open-minded music gathering in the country.”
Not as lyrical, but downright fun is the annual Shindig at Windrock OHV Park. The event is held on the 72,000 acre property that is trail driven. This is an outdoor playground for off-roading or mountain biking featuring vertical drops and rocking boulders. On April 25-27, the stage lights up with country music. Play all day and dance all night. Camping is available on site.
Two more not to be missed festivals that weave together art, music, and history are the Annual Morristown Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday, April 20 and the May 3 Blooms, Bluegrass, and BBQ festival in Sweetwater. Both Morristown and Sweetwater are both certified Main Street communities that have honored their heritage through the preservation and re-purposing of original buildings. Plan to walk the streets and shops to learn more about these railroad communities.
For an authentic spring experience in Appalachia, plan to attend the Newport Ramp Festival May 11 and 12. The ramp is a spring delicacy that was thought to be a tonic for the body after a long winter’s diet. In recent years, the ramp has found its way on gourmet tables across the country. Not fancy, but tasty, the Newport Ramp Festival will be serving up cooked ramps and music that will surely be a spring tonic for the body and soul. Newport is one of the getaways to the Smokies and the Cherokee National Forest, with plenty of hiking, horseback riding, trout fishing and rafting.
Spring comes early in the 9 Lakes and is a festival of sights and sounds. Shake off those winter doldrums and celebrate as our forebearers would with music, food, and the promise of summer days.