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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Festivals

The rich culture of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is shared in numerous festivals and special events throughout the year. Music, storytelling, arts and crafts, homemade remedies, mountain food preparation, and history are part of events that are free and open to the public.


Festivals & Special Events

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
April 21-25, 2015
rhododendron

This five-day annual event offers of a variety of wildflower, fauna, and natural history walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars. Most programs take place outdoors inside the National Park. Indoor offerings are held in various venues throughout Gatlinburg, TN.
www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org


Mountain Life Festival
September 19, 2015
mountain life festival

This Festival, held at the Mountain Farm Museum near Cherokee NC, provides an opportunity to share with park visitors some of the traditional fall activities that were an important part of rural life in the southern mountains and reflect the spirit of cooperation that existed among families and neighbors. Demonstrations include hearth cooking, apple butter making, sorghum syrup making, blacksmithing, lye soap making, food preservation, and chair bottoming. Artifacts and historic photographs from the national park's collection will also be on display.

A sorghum syrup making demonstration has been the centerpiece of the event for over 30 years. The syrup is made much the same way it was produced a hundred or more years ago, using a horse-powered cane mill and a wood-fired cooker. The syrup making demonstration is provided by students, staff, and volunteers from Swain County High School Future Farmers of America through a cooperative agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

In addition to the Mountain Life Festival events, visitors will also be treated to music jam sessions which are held on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center every first and third Saturday of the month from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Mountain Farm Museum is located adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina.


Festival of Christmas Past
December 12, 2015
festival of christmas past

Festival of Christmas Past features a series of hands-on workshops, demonstrations, and musical entertainment and is made possible through the cooperative efforts of many Park friends, including the Smoky Mountains Historical Society and Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association.

The festival provides an atmosphere of Christmas holiday cheer as many Park friends gather to share their reflections on mountain lifestyles through conversation, storytelling, music, and demonstrations of domestic arts and food preparation. It's a great opportunity for visitors to learn about mountain folk ways and how Christmas was celebrated in a traditional fashion.

The day's activities take place at Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Sugarlands Training Room, the building adjacent to the visitor center. Several hands-on activities take place all day.

Artisans demonstrate basket making, spinning, and weaving, while others share their knowledge on woodworking and how homemade remedies, chores, and foods were traditionally prepared.

The Christmas craft table is always a favorite with youngsters and adults alike. Park volunteers are on hand with the help of Vickie Law to lend their time teaching the art of making gifts and decorations from natural items and inexpensive materials already on hand. Participants can make their own decorations to take home with them.

In the Visitor Center auditorium, renowned storytellers begin the program with a few tales, bringing humor, history and holiday spirit to the event.

Performing throughout the day is a variety of musical entertainers with sounds of traditional gospel and mountain music and old fashioned Christmas hymns and carols.

 

Cosby in the Park
May 16, 2015
cosby in the park

This annual festival is held at the Cosby Picnic Area and Amphitheater in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and features live entertainment, craft demonstrations, children's programs, history talks and guided hikes. Cosby in the Park highlights the splendid spring atmosphere and presents a glimpse into the past by paying tribute to a previous way of life. Spring time in the mountains was difficult, but strenuous chores eventually gave way to a time for relaxation, when residents passed time by making music. Local residents also celebrated their rich Scotch-Irish heritage through traditional song and dance.

The day's events feature bluegrass performances, traditional Cherokee music and dance as well as a performance by other musicians. Visitors are encouraged to bring a lunch and their own instruments and join in during the all day bluegrass "pickin' party." There are various craftspeople and musicians in attendance at Cosby in the Park.
Image courtesy of www.examiner.com.


Cosby Mountain Music
June, July, August
claw hammer dulcimer

Held on selected Saturdays, the Cosby Mountain Music is a series of "old-time" mountain music presentations at the Cosby Campground amphitheater on Saturday evenings during the summer. Performances for this free event begin at 7:00 p.m. and last an hour and a half.

Bands play traditional songs and tunes, utilizing the fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, and guitar. Along with their playing, band members will provide information on the origins of the songs and tunes of southern Appalachia.

Other bands feature performers on claw-hammer banjo and acoustic bass playing traditional music of the southern mountains. One of the goals of the band is to share their enthusiasm for mountain music through song and story, thereby promoting the cultural heritage of this part of southern Appalachia.

Both bands have produced CDs and regularly perform at many music venues in the region.

For more information, please contact the Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291. Image courtesy of www.folk-legends.net.


Holiday Homecoming at Oconaluftee
December 19, 2015
holiday homecoming

Experience an old-time mountain Christmas celebration at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Park staff and volunteers will provide hands-on traditional craft demonstrations from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Children and adults will have the opportunity to make a corn shuck doll, buzz button, and cinnamon ornament to take home. Visitors will be encouraged to make a cinnamon ornament to hang on the visitor center tree for years to come.

An acoustic old time jam session will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a focus on holiday music. Hot apple cider and cookies will be served on the porch with a fire in the fireplace.

The Center is located on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Highway 441), two miles north of Cherokee, N.C. All activities are free.

     

old timers dayOld Timers Day
October 3, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides former Cades Cove residents, their descendents, and others from surrounding areas an opportunity to take part in Old Timers Day. Storytelling and reminiscing are also featured during this informal affair. Visitors are welcome to join in and contribute stories of their own. One of the most unique areas in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove, an historic valley rich in pioneer culture as well as bountiful in wildlife, hosts Old Timers' Day and molasses making in September of each year. Former Cades Cove residents, their descendents, and others from surrounding areas take part in this event. Storytelling and reminiscing are also featured during this informal affair. Visitors are welcome to join in and contribute stories of their own. The event is held in Cades Cove.

The Cades Cove Loop Road opens at sunrise to motor vehicles and Park Rangers are on site to coordinate parking. Over 4,000 people attend this annual get-together.

The free event will take place in the Cable Mill Visitor Center area. Visitors are encouraged to stay all day and bring lawn chairs and a picnic lunch.

Old Timer's Day provides visitors an occasion to listen to the sounds of traditional mountain music.

     

Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
October 1-31, 2015

fall harvest festival fall harvest festival

Fall is a wonderful time of celebration in the Smoky Mountains. The annual Harvest Festival brings arts and crafts fairs, music celebrations, and lots of fun activities to enjoy during your stay. Each city surrounding the national park has its own flair for celebrating this time of year.
www.smokymountainfallcolors.com

     

February 19-22, 2015
Smoky Mountain Snowdown: Winter Heritage Festival
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

This Festival is a celebration of the human history, natural beauty, and cultural traditions of Townsend, Cades Cove, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The event involves many community groups and businesses and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is free, except for lunches and suppers, where there are reservations required, with charges for meals or material fees. Music and photography workshops require pre-registration.
www.gsmheritagecenter.org

March 7, 2015
The Shakespeare Seminar - 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882
Adults: $10 College/High School Students: $5

The Friends of the Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library will once again host “The Shakespeare Seminar” from 10-4 on Saturday, March 7, in the auditorium of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend. More information will be posted as it becomes available. Last year’s seminar focused on The Taming of the Shrew and featured a lively discussion of the ever changing roles of women and men in society.

The guest instructor was William Gathergood who has taught a Shakespeare Seminar to high school seniors for thirty-one years. He has lectured on Shakespearean literature internationally throughout Europe and Asia, and has published books on the teaching of Shakespeare both in the United States and Russia. Over a period of eight years, Gathergood matched 150 American students, through email, with “husbands and wives” in Russia to study the changing roles of women and men.

For more information or to register for the Shakespeare Seminar please call the Tippitt Library, 865-448-1441, by March 1st to reserve your place. The cost is $10.00 per person, $5.00 for college or high school students, which can be paid the day of the event. Bring a brown bag lunch. Water, coffee, soft drinks will be available. All proceeds will benefit the Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library.

April 17-19, 2015
2015 Smoky Mountain Arts Festival
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

Features art classes, activities for families, live demonstrations, display of llamas, angora rabbits, sheep. Includes a marketplace of vendors. Friday & Saturday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm; Sunday: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Free admission. townsendartisanguild.net

April 17, 2015
Music of the Mountains Concert: Good Thymes Ceilidh Band
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Celtic music kicks off a weekend of music as residents and visitors celebrate the mountains’ musical past. Presented by Great Smoky Mountains Association.
Admission: $5 (GSMHC members free); Children 5 & under free.

May 16, 2015
Magic of the Mountain - 5:30 pm
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

The Heritage Center’s annual benefit dinner is a social highlight of the spring season with great food, music and both live and silent auction. Call Carol Short at 865-448-0044 for advance tickets. Reservations required.
www.gsmheritagecenter.org

September (Date TBA)
Old Timer’s Day
Cable Mill Visitor Center, Cades Cove

Cades Cove is one of the most unique areas in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This historic valley is rich in pioneer culture and is bountiful in wildlife. The Cove hosts Old Timers' Day and molasses making in September of each year. Former Cades Cove residents, their descendents, and others from surrounding areas take part in this informal event. Storytelling and reminiscing are also featured. Visitors are welcome to join in and contribute stories of their own. Old Timer's Day provides visitors an occasion to listen to the sounds of traditional mountain music.

The Cades Cove Loop Road opens at sunrise to motor vehicles, and Park Rangers are on site to coordinate event parking. Over 4,000 people attend this annual get-together. Visitors are encouraged to stay all day and bring lawn chairs and a picnic lunch.
 

September 18, 2015
Rotary Storytelling Festival - 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

Join the Alcoa Maryville Rotary Club for the annual Smoky Mountain Storytelling Festival from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the Heritage Center’s covered outdoor amphitheater. Tickets are $5.00 and are on sale at the Heritage Center or from any Alcoa-Maryville Rotary Club member and at the door the night of the event. Please bring your own lawn chair. The Festival will feature performances by some of the region’s most beloved storytellers, authors and musicians. $5 admission.
www.gsmheritagecenter.org

September 26, 2015
Blue Ribbon Country Fair
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

Now in its eighth year, this annual celebration of the old-fashioned county fair features competition, games, music, historic demonstrations, and more. Returning favorites include the Farmer in the Cove interactive exhibit for young visitors (all day), the Townsend Artisan Guild craft tent (all day), the Foothills Antique Tractor and Engine Club exhibit, livestock displays and demonstrations, and much more.

Contests that include Hog Calling, Rooster Crowing, ‘Crow-Like-A-Rooster’, the Lodge Ladies’ Skillet Throw, Catch a Greased Pig Contest, Watermelon Seed-Spitting and others make this event one-of-a-kind and an unforgettable day of family fun! Visitors may sign up for these contests on the show grounds the day of the event.

Competition is offered in Poultry, Vegetables/Produce, Baked Goods, Canning, Honey Show, Woodworking Projects, Floral Show, and Student Art Competition on Paper. The 2014 theme for both Student Art and Floral Design divisions this year is “Smoky Mountain Memories”, and the deadline for entry forms and student art work is Tuesday, September 23.
$5.00 at door. GSMHC members free.
www.gsmheritagecenter.org

October 3-4, 2015
Smoky Mountain Woodcarving Show
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

This popular annual show and competition sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers Association, Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers Supply and the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center will take place on October 3rd and 4th. Hours for the show are Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from Noon to 4:00 p.m. Public admission is $4.00 per person.

More than 300 entries are expected from woodcarvers from at least 6 states with categories of competition in Novice, Intermediate and Open with winners receiving ribbons and cash awards.

Woodcarvers will be set up onsite to offer demonstrations or to display and sell their carvings. Woodcarving tools, equipment and teaching aids will also be available to purchase during the festival.
www.woodcarvers.com

November 7, 2015
Quilters Road Show - 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

Historic Quilts, evaluations, demonstrations and more for beginners thru advanced quilters. Presented by Smoky Mountain Quilters.

November 21, 2015
6th Annual Holiday Homecoming - 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
123 Cromwell Drive, Townsend,TN 37882

Celebrate harvest, home, and the holidays with live music throughout the day, kids’ crafts, tasty treats from the open hearth, basket weaving demonstrations, guest speakers, and more.

10:00 – 5:00 Fun fall activities for the kids: Make old fashioned Christmas tree ornaments to hang on your tree, learn how baskets are made, taste yummy homemade fudge made over the open fire, and best of all visit with Santa Claus!
10:00 – 4:45 Live music in the auditorium will be provided by local musicians. Please check our website for the final schedule for the day and for all updates. Come celebrate holiday traditions of the past and begin new traditions that bind the hearts of family and friends. Admission is free.
 


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