The Townsend Heritage Festival and Old Timers’ Day in Cades Cove are taking place this weekend, September 25-26.

This annual festival started with the original Old Timers’ Day 23 years ago. It was and is a day set aside for old timers, some of them descendants of the Cove, to gather and pick and play music. Eventually the event grew beyond capacity, which is how the Heritage Festival came to be. There was a need to alleviate traffic to Cades Cove and an opportunity to generate tourism. The festival has had various components over the years, but, to no surprise, the heart and soul has always been the music: bluegrass music, mountain music, gospel music, the music of Blount County’s history and present.

Music is everywhere at the Heritage Festival. On the main stage, scheduled bands will play sets throughout the day. Players are also free to form groups all over the grounds. Not to mention, cloggers of all ages will be performing for large crowds of fans.

Over the course of the weekend, eight to ten thousand people come out to enjoy the music, crafts, art, and food. In fact, many event-goers bring chairs to save their spots on the porch days in advance. For some, the Heritage Festival is a homecoming. Friendships have been made and maintained through the years because of this event. Some plan their vacations around it, knowing they will get to see So-and-so again. And many will have their rooms for next year booked before they even leave.

There are several more events around Townsend going on at the same time, which is why a shuttle service is provided to transport people among the Visitor’s Center, Trillium Cove, Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. and Museum, and the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center.

Another event to check out is the Blue Ribbon Fair at the Heritage Center. Going to this fair is like stepping into the past—complete with a grease-the-pig contest, cast-iron skillet throwing contest, cornhusk doll demonstrations, and story-tellings. Townsend Elementary will be auctioning off six-foot-tall scarecrows at the fair as a fundraiser as well. Arts and crafts include basket making and charcoal art, rug-hooking and wood-carving, and many more.

All these events welcome families and friends to come and celebrate their roots!

Admission and shuttle service are free. Parking is $8.

by Mallory Leonard