events

Newport Harvest Street Festival Oct. 7-8: Harvesting Memories

Bringing with it an atmosphere of nostalgia and a chance to create new memories, the Newport Harvest Street Festival has for 37 years served as a premier East Tennessee community celebration event

Heralding the onset of fall and launching the start of Cocke County’s annual season of weekend festivals, the Street Festival strikes a cheerful balance between old and new.

Many of the vendors and participants have been returning year after year, becoming an integral part of the festival’s identity. This continuity is essential for the festival’s charm, as it allows visitors to relive cherished memories. Whether it’s savoring a favorite treat from a familiar food stall or reconnecting with long-time friends, the Newport Street Festival has a unique ability to transport attendees back in time.

But what makes this festival truly exceptional is its capacity for  renewal, year after year. Alongside the familiar faces, there are new vendors, attractions, and activities waiting to be discovered. This delicate blend of tradition and innovation is what keeps the festival fresh and exciting. It’s a testament to the organizers’ commitment to providing a diverse and engaging experience for both long-time attendees and first-time visitors.

“We’ve got vendors that have been coming for as long as I know and  before, and then we’ve always got new ones,” said Lynn Ramsey, Cocke County Chamber of Commerce director and an organizer of the event since 2008. “We have everything from crafts and Christmas and fall decorations to children’s toys. Some people are selling different kinds of stones and herbs and handcrafted soaps and a lot of handmade arts and crafts. A lot of churches will come and give away information, and sometimes they give away free stuff like bottles of water to drink.”

Ramsey said this year’s festival will be expanding over its previous layout — something that hasn’t been done since she was attending the festival as a child.

“We are going to go out on Main Street out in front of Roscoe’s Treasures, opening that back up,” said Ramsey. “It used to be open years ago, so we are excited to be expanding it again.”

If the weather is beautiful and the sun graces the streets of downtown Newport with its warm glow, turnout can run as high as 6,000 people or more. Clear blue skies and crisp autumn air set the stage for a weekend filled with laughter, music, and delicious food.

Food trucks and tasty treat-serving tents line the streets and fill the air with the enticing aromas of all your favorite festival snacks and beverages, from fresh squeezed lemonade, corn dogs and spiral taters to funnel cakes and deep-fried desserts.

And of course, no Tennessee festival would be complete with music, and the Newport Street Festival always serves a wonderful variety guaranteed to get your body moving to the sweet beats and lively melodies. This year’s lineup includes: Stone Mountain Band, Southern Addiction Band, Mikki Norwood Band, as well as soothing harmonies by Classical Strings. Energetic dance numbers by talented local youth from Max Movement Dance and Fitness will also be showcased. On Sunday, start your morning off with a Sunday service by Bridgeport Freewill Baptist Church, everyone is invited to attend.

Make sure to see all the lovely ladies and babies that come to compete to be 2023’s Harvest Queen in their appropriate age division. Children up to 16 years of age will compete in pageants according to their age bracket. The ever-popular Miss Newport Harvest Festival, for females ages 16-21 years old, will be the last pageant of the day. All pageants will be on the Broadway side of the Courthouse lawn on Saturday at 10:30 am.

The Newport Harvest Street Festival is a testament to the enduring spirit of close-knit community and the power of Appalachia traditions. It’s a place where locals and visitors alike come to relive old memories and create new ones, where the past and present seamlessly merge in a celebration of life in Cocke County.

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Honoring Cocke County’s Century Farms Highlights TN Agricultural Heritage

As part of the festivities celebrating the Cocke County Fair‘s diamond jubilee this month, an appreciation event is scheduled Aug. 19 to honor local families whose farms have been in continued operation for many generations.

“Century Farms” are an essential part of the Tennessee Heritage Farms Program. Administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, the program recognizes and works to conserve farms that have remained in the same family and in continuous agriculture production for 100 years or more.

About 2,100 such farms have been certified across the Volunteer State — a dozen of them in Cocke County:

  • Baxter Farm, 1875
  • Bible Farm, 1887
  • Dwight L. Bundy Farm, 1907
  • Heritage Farms, 1849
  • Jim and Alice Freeman Gulf Farm, 1910
  • Leibrock Farm, 1886
  • M.G. Roberts Poplar Tree Farm, 1859
  • Neas Farm, 1885
  • Oakleaf Farm, 1902
  • Ottinger Farm, 1894
  • Pitts Farm, 1897

River Dale Farm, established in 1794, is also a designated Pioneer Century Farm, meaning that its operation dates back to the founding of the State of Tennessee in 1796 or before.

“Despite drought, floods, the Civil War and the Great Depression, these families have remained tillers of the soil, persevering where others have failed,” wrote state historian Carroll Van West in his 1986 book, “Tennessee Agriculture: A Century Farms Perspective.”

The Tennessee Heritage Farms Program plays a crucial role in preserving rural culture and regional identity – especially in small, mostly-rural counties like Cocke. The program provides educational resources and extension outreach to farm families and the general public, raising awareness of the importance of keeping Tennessee’s agricultural heritage well tended.

The program helps encourage and promote a sense of community pride among the farm families, local historical societies, county extension offices, student groups, city and county governments, and other stakeholder individuals and organizations interested in conserving Tennessee’s countryside and maintaining authentic connections to our cultural roots.

The Heritage Farms Program also aims to promote economic development in rural areas by highlighting the importance of agriculture to the state’s overall economy. Historic farms often attract visitors and tourists who not only appreciate the beauty of the pastoral landscapes, but admire the character, persistence and resourcefulness of Tennesseans who make their livelihoods as producers of civilization’s sustenance.

Given the range of continuing challenges facing today’s farmers, words that Van West penned more than three and a half decades ago — in the midst of the 1980s American Farm Crisis — take on even greater import today: “In a time of agricultural crisis, the legacy of the Century Farmers is a potent reminder that farmers in the past have survived similar hard times to prosper in the future.”

 

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Cocke County’s Fair Means More than Mere Fun

Cocke County’s Feisty Summer Fair Marks 75 Years of Celebrating Local Culture, Building Community Bonds and Preserving Ties to Rural Life

County fairs are a beloved tradition of late summer, filled with nostalgia, excitement, and friendly competition. Fairs hold a special place in our hearts, with songs, books and movies dedicated to capturing their magic. As we stroll through the fairgrounds, memories of childhood come flooding back – the exhilarating rides of the midway, the tantalizing smells of fair food, and the vibrant displays of animals, canned goods, pies, and other products of country living vying for that esteemed blue ribbon or prize money or, perhaps most coveted, bragging rights.

The history of the modern fair dates back to 1811, when it was established as a platform for farmers to share their innovative farming techniques and foster a sense of community among farming families. It became a friendly battleground where farmers and their families competed for the title of “best of show,” presenting before the community their prized animals and delectable preserves.
Popular media celebrates fairs in small towns.  Consider the fictional town of Mayberry R.F.D when the fair took center stage in several episodes, celebrating everything from beauty pageants to Aunt Bee’s famous pickles. These depictions only served to reinforce the significance of fairs in both small and large communities.

In Cocke County, the first organized fair was held in 1948 at the fairground’s current location. Since then, these friendly community competitions have evolved beyond pickles, pageants, and poultry.  Come to enjoy Gospel Singing, Bluegrass music, tractor pulls, and the midway filled with rides and carnival foods.  The demolition derby and the firemen challenge add an extra dose of excitement to the fair. And this year, as the fair celebrates its 75th anniversary, there will be a celebration of the Century Farms of Cocke County.

County fairs are not just about the attractions and competitions; they are about coming together as a community, celebrating our agricultural heritage, and creating lasting memories. So mark your calendars for August 15-19, 2023 at the Cocke County Fair.

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Celebrating Cosby- 2024 Summer Programming Announced

Each summer, the Great Smoky Mountain  National Park Service teams up with Cocke County Tourism to host the “Celebrating Cosby”   community programming which honors the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area through storytelling, dance, music, and history walks.

“These programs offer incredible opportunities for visitors to discover Cosby by experiencing it firsthand with the people who live and work here,” said Chief of Resource Education Stephanie Kyriazis. “We are grateful to our friends from the local community who are leading these unique experiences.”

Plan your visit to the Smokies to include these fun, free events held in the Cosby Campgrounds.

June 21, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.    Mountain Edge Band

Enjoy traditional bluegrass music and stories of Cosby families during this musical night! Featuring musicians Judge Carter Moore (guitar and vocals), Andy Williams (mandolin and vocals), Kurry Cody (banjo and vocals), and Carty McSween (bass).

June 28, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.    Cherokee Storytelling and Dance

Learn about the Cherokee culture and stories through dance, music, and storytelling featuring members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee People, including Daniel Tramper, Dustin Tramper, and Sonny Ledford.

July 5, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.      Honoring Those Who Served

Honoring those who served and a presentation of Quilts of Valor. Join park staff to learn about community members’ roles in the military and public service, yesterday and today!

July 12, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.     People of the Mountains

Take a step back in time and learn from the locals about what daily life was like working and living in the Cosby community and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn directly from the families connected to the land.

July 19, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.     Moonshiners

White lightning, mountain dew, moonshine! Distill myth from fact as you learn details of making moonshine in the mountains from Moonshine Legends Mark Ramsey, Sally Clark, Digger Manes, and Kelly Williamson.

 

 

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Down by the River- 2024 Rhythm on the River Summer Concert Series in Newport Kicks off May 30

Ten Years of Rhythm on the River

After a day of play, come enjoy the outdoor summer concert series held at River Walk along the Pigeon River in downtown Newport beginning on May 30.  The event is free.  Each concert runs from 7- 9 pm.

The series continues on Thursdays- June 13 and 27, and July 11 and 25.

Concessions are available from 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.  Festival seating, so bring a chair or blanket for an evening of music and absorb the history of this  river community which dates back to 1783.

See the concert schedule here.

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