Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Tennessee Fall Homecoming - October 9 - 11 in Norris, TN - Preview

This year's Tennessee Fall Homecoming, to be held at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN from October 9 - 11 has the most remarkable and varied musical lineup we've ever seen there to accompany this noted and wonderful celebration of Appalachian culture, lifestyle, history, and music. Much to my surprise, we haven't been there since 2012, too long for this well-known festival attractive to varied audiences: tourists, fans of old-time as well as bluegrass music, and people wishing to learn more about Appalachian culture and history, all well represented by this amazing event. 

Thursday Is Student Heritage Day
In keeping with the educational mission of The Museum of Appalachia, the festival actually kicks of on Thursday with a Student Heritage Day, open only to school children of just about all ages brought to the museum in buses for the day. While this day is not open to the general public, it's great fun to watch the children of East Tennessee encounter some of the history and culture that may or may not be a part of their own background, but which is crucial to gaining an understanding of the region. Music and educational programs on Thursday are keyed to their interests. Activities are designed to involve them in active learning. 

Crowds of School Children

Collection of Heritage Apples

Appropriate Performers

The Museum of Appalachia
Founder - John Rice Irwin

John Rice Irwin, historian, collector, and writer, is the founder of the Museum of Appalachia. His roots are deeply woven into the region and the mark of his vision is all over this marvelous museum. In 1989 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Known as the "Genius Award," the fellowship provides a $625,000 stipend to its recipients with no strings attached. Irwin, in the presentation announcement is labeled as a "curator and cultural preservationist." 

The Museum of Appalachia is a somewhat quirky and completely enjoyable collection of buildings and memorabilia, along with, especially on weekends and always during the Tennessee Fall Homecoming, a lot of artisans, interpreters, and musicians on the grounds to introduce visitors to the often unique elements of Appalachian farm and mountain life. Assembled by John Rice Irwin, during a lifetime of collecting and building, the museum stands as a vital, living exhibition of an era that's now (almost) gone from living memory. As such, it captures an invaluable portrait of a hard, yet rewarding and significant, life in the region and the nation's development.

Some Material from The Display Barn

Any visit to the Museum of Appalachia would be incomplete without an hour or so spent with the collection of essential and odd-ball creations of implements and artifacts of rural Appalachia. Music always took an important place in this world, even though cash was short and people couldn't afford to purchase instruments. Here are a few home-made artifacts attesting to the irresistible urge to make music.

The Lineup for the Tennessee Fall Homecoming
The Lineup for this year's Tennessee Fall Homecoming is headlined by three IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Associations) Hall of Fame performers, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, and Larry Sparks, who will have been inducted the week before this years Fall Homecoming. The Gibson Brothers, appearing on Sunday, have been nominated as IBMA Entertainer of the Year for the third time this year. The lineup is so filled with fine performers this year that it's impossible to feature all of them, but contemporary and historical greats represents just the tip of the iceberg at the Tennessee Fall Homecoming. Performing on five stages spread around the grounds of the Museum, the music of Appalachia rings out. There are gospel groups singing in the old-time shape note style, modern representations of Uncle Dave Macon's great banjo twirling showmanship, interpreters of mountain music on historic instruments. During the weekend, you're likely to hear bluegrass, traditional country, southern gospel, mountain music, old-time, folk, and more. You can sit and listen at any of the five venues or you can wander the grounds exploring the arts and crafts of this region while soaking up musical, artisitic, craft, and work culture, chatting with interpreters and producers of scuppernong wine, sorghum syrup, and makeers of fine instruments. 

Del McCoury Band

Perhaps the most recognized and awarded band in bluegrass music over the past three decades, The Del McCoury Band has established a well-recogonized record of accomplishment, always managing to represent bluegrass music back to it's origins, when Del was a bluegrass boy playing for Bill Monroe, to cutting edge elements of playing and recording with everyone from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to the Lee Boys, an electric steel gospel band. With a band still garnering awards, the Del McCoury Band is a national treasure that should never be missed. 

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers latest album, Brotherhood, and evocation of historic brothers duos from the 1920's through the 1970's reached #1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts in September, their eighth consecutive recording to attain these heights, At the same time, they have been nominated for another Entertainer of the Year Award. Personable, alive, present, and deeply nostalgic, this is a band whose recording career is exceptional, only surpassed by the immediacy of their family banter and close harmony found best in their live performances. If you haven't yet seen this exceptional band, here's your chance. 

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

For over fifty years, Doyle Lawson, with the Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe & the New South, and Jimmy Martin has been at the center of bluegrass. With his own band Quicksilver, established in 1979 (that's 36 years ago) Doyle Lawson has continued to combine hard driving entertainment, faith through gospel music, and funny bits with continually spinning off young musicians to start their own units (Dailey & Vincent). Inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame 2011, he continues with a tried and true formula that has entertained millions over the years.

Larry Sparks

A few weeks ago, it was announced that IBMA will induct Larry Sparks in to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame at its Awards show on October 1st in Raleigh, NC. Sparks' silky smooth singing of bluegrass favorites and his powerful guitar picking have also been a highlight with noted bands. When Carter Stanley died, it was Sparks who was hired as singer/guitar player to join the Clinch Mountain Boys. In 1969 Sparks formed the Lonesome Ramblers, which has been his band for the succeeding 46 years. He has been twice named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year.  What a record of accomplishment!

Melvin Goins

Melvin Goins is a member of the IBMA Hall of Fame as a member of the first generation bluegrass band The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, a band founded by Ezra and Curly Ray Cline which included such luminaries at Bobby Osborne and Paul Williams. He will be appearing with his band Windy Mountain. 

The list of performers goes on and on. Many others are multiple award winners. Others are better known regionally and locally along the Appalachian chain from Virginia to North Georgia for their country or bluegrass music, their old-time singing and playing, or their excellence as instrumentalists, singers, and dancers. Many are special favorites of the Tenneessee Fall Homecoming audience.

The full list of performers for 2015 is so large that I cannot place all their names on this blog entry. You can see the list as a pdf file by clicking here.

Artists and Artisans

Scattered around the spacious grounds are dozens or artists and artisans displaying and selling their wares, most created using traditional techniques and tools. There's a leisurely feel about this events. It seems that folks always have the time to take to explain the work they do and the techniques they employ. 

Grinding Sorghum for Syrup


Soap Making







The Details

Tickets: You can purchase ticket to the Tennessee Fall Homecoming online by clicking here

One Day Tickets: Now Through Sept 21 After Sept 21 & Gate Prices
  Adult          $25.00  $30.00
 Youth (13-18) $12.00 $15.00
 Child (5-12)    $9.00 $10.00
 Two Day Tickets: Now Through Sept 21 After Sept 21 & Gate Prices
  Adult          $45.00  $55.00
 Youth (13-18) $20.00 $30.00
 Child (5-12) $17.00 $20.00

Three Day Tickets: Now Through Sept 21 After Sept 21 & Gate Prices
 Adult $65.00          $75.00
 Youth (13-18) $30.00 $45.00
 Child (5-12) $25.00 $30.00
For more information on supporting the museum through membership, please call (865) 494-7680.

Lodging: There are a number of options available for places to stay near the Museum of Appalachia. There is no camping or other lodging available on the Museum grounds. The nearest campground is the KOA Campground just a mile down the road. This is usually completely filled during the Homecoming, but it  may be worth a try. Here's a list of available accommodations, some nearby, others a little further away. Each place in this pdf document is attached to a link

Directions to The Museum of Appalachia:

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Elaine Irwin Meyer - Hostess of the Homecoming

The Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN is one of the premier events featuring Appalachian culture, musical roots, along with a large and interesting crafts fair. Artisans scatter the grounds demonstrating their processes and selling their wares. Their are plenty food vendors featuring standard fair food and local favorites. If you love old-time and country music, bluegrass, traditional arts, living museums, and more, this is a must visit event.