If the term “jam-packed” ever defined a one-day festival, it would be most appropriate at the Eighth Annual East Tennessee History Fair sponsored by the East Tennessee Historical Society on August 16th! And you might wonder if anyone in our modern tech age would be interested. But with record numbers in attendance (probably beating last year’s 13,000) and a grand slate of events, there was no way any one person could see it all . . . but thousands tried. We hung out mainly in Krutch Park in the center of downtown Knoxville since there were reenactors, authors, and history groups galore. And our position had a little to do with the proximity right next to the food trucks and Market Square Farmers Market, famous in its own right! (See bottom of this post for a listing of other events that day.)
Krutch Park was a-buzz with all the history folks. Like the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable offering special commemorative items. Since the Civil War Sesquicentennial is just around the corner, they know folks are watching web sites for updates so they can “do it up right.” They were happy to fill us in on what’ll be happening in East Tennessee.
Authors like Gordon T. Belt sat under tents and autographed books. Some even posed for pictures and told why they did all that research and published a book. (No small feat, of course.)
In another booth, Laura Still described her Knoxville Walking Tours. You can have your choice of packaged tours — Civil War, Ghosts, Early Years, Gunslingers, Literary Heritage — and more. And if you take one of the 90-minute jaunts, you’ll learn a little Knoxville history and add steps to your FitBit, too!
But most impressive (especially in the summer heat) were the many reenactors in the Living History Timeline representing Colonial days to WWII. Several, like Kelly Ford in an authentic WWI uniform, told how he made everything using remnants from original clothing.
We were especially honored to meet Abe and Mary Lincoln (Tom and Susan Wright) and their son Tad (grandson Kyle Wright) behind The Holston.
Near the side entrance to the East Tennessee Historical Society Museum, onlookers were fascinated that a blacksmith (Bill Rose) was plying his trade and sharing his techniques right on a city street . . .
while some young festival attendees fashioned dolls out of cloth scraps with the help of volunteer seamstresses — much as children would have done in days gone by.
A representative from The Society of Civil War Surgeons portrayed Col. Bill Walker as he shared how surgeries were performed using many of the instruments he had carefully displayed. (See those silver prongs? They had something to do with “bustin’ up” kidney stones, but I wince even as I post this!)
David Dinwiddie shared the story and pictures of his great great uncle William Dinwiddie, a Knoxville policeman fatally shot by the infamous outlaw Kid Curry in 1902. The constable hat? Yep, authentic. Owned by William Dinwiddie and well preserved, don’t you think?
In another tent, long-time friend Bill Alexander charmed us as only he can do with his poetry and “gen-u-wine” mountain humor. Dubbed the Poet Laureate of Hippie Jack’s, Bill makes mountain berry baskets and writes poetry, much of which he recites when he performs for crowds who appreciate a true Appalachian humorist and lover of “the good life.”
Talented folks inside the East Tennessee History Center shared their knowledge and crafts — like Dale Liles and Carolyn Rogers – the art of spinning; Anne Freels – how to make cornhusk dolls; and Edward Bardill and others who moved handmade miniature soldiers to replicate the Battle of Campbell’s Station.
By all accounts, the East Tennessee History Fair was one for . . . well, the history books: record crowd, long list of events, and kids (and grownups) listening while those in the know shared what they came to share. Better check this one out next year. It really is a Blast from the Past.
Other events in the East Tennessee Historical Society History Fair:
- Free admission to the Museum of East Tennessee History
- Davy Crockett’s Birthday celebration
- “History Hound” Dog Costume Contest
- WDVX Radio & Clayton Country Music Stage
- Friends of the Library Book Sale
- Meet the Authors & Book Signing (Gordon T. Belt, Natalie Sweet, Martha Wiley, Jack Neely, Bill Landry)
- Raku Pottery activity
- Living History Timeline
- Demonstrating Artists
- Historic Home Tours
- Civil War Bus Tour
- Tennessee Theatre Tours
- Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia and Office Tours
- Vintage Base Ball Doubleheader
- East Tennesseans on Film (Bijou Theatre)
- Civil War Commemoration Event
- Live Music
For more information:
East Tennessee Historical Society: