John Rice Irwin would travel the Tennessee countryside spying historic buildings, machinery and other objects that told the history of the Volunteer State. He would stop and offer the owners money for their possessions, eventually collecting more than 250,000 pioneer relics.
Today, these historic objects and 30 log structures make up the Museum of Appalachia on 65 acres outside Oak Ridge, Tenn. Not only does this awe-inspiring museum complex offer the public and visiting schoolchildren an authentic peek into Appalachian life, it sets the stage for one of the country’s best fall festivals.
The Museum of Appalachia’s 32nd annual Tennessee Fall Homecoming will be Oct. 7-9, 2011, with five stages featuring some 400 musicians playing traditional tunes from “Wildwood Flower” to “Wabash Cannonball.” New to this year’s Homecoming is the Carter Family III (shown above right), playing old Carter tunes as well as new songs. The band, which rarely tours, includes John Carter Cash (Johnny & June Carter Cash’s son), his wife Laura Cash and Dale Jett (Janette Carter’s son). Also making their Homecoming debut are the Steep Canyon Rangers, the 2006 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year, and the Roys.
Returning to the stage are the John Hartford String Band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Blue Moon Rising, Dixie Gray, Southern Raised, Cody Shuler & Pine Mountain Railroad, the Cluster Pluckers, Lilies of the West, and the Quebe Sisters Band which features three sisters playing triple fiddles.
Authors appearing include Bill Landry with “Appalachian Tales & Heartland Adventures,” John Carter Cash with his new book “House of Cash,” Randy Rudder with “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music: The Inspirational Stories behind 101 of Your Favorite Country Songs” and Jill Peterson, who founded the magazine, A Simple Life, will present her new cookbook, “Simple Cooking for a Simple Life.”
Advance Homecoming tickets can be purchased through Sept. 21 at a discounted rate; call 865-494-7680 or visit museumofappalachia.org. The Museum is located on I-75 at exit 122, then one mile east.
About Oak Ridge, Tennessee
When the U.S. government realized Germany was developing an atom bomb during World War II, they turned the 59,000 acres of sleepy farmland in middle Tennessee into the city of Oak Ridge where 75,000 civilians and military would enrich uranium, the element needed to fuel a bomb of our own. This “City Behind a Fence” secretly operated for three years as part of the Manhattan Project before the bomb was dropped on Japan. Many of its residents didn’t know what they were creating until the news followed after Hiroshima.
The incredible legacy of Oak Ridge remains today, with the government facility of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And although technological breakthroughs continue with the new Spallation Neutron Source at the laboratory, the community of Oak Ridge extends far beyond its atomic inception.
Places to visit in Oak Ridge include:
American Museum of Science & Energy (shown left) — naturally a science museum in a city full of physicists and scientists would be well-funded and highly creative, a perfect jumping off spot to learn about Oak Ridge’s scientific history, plus the museum offers tram tours to take visitors inside the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge is located within an old elementary school building and every corner provides an imaginative experience.
Secret City Scenic Excursion Train takes visitors inside the original Oak Ridge atomic laboratory in a fun, relaxing train ride.
Green McAdoo Cultural Center (shown right) honors 12 African American high school students who were the first to attend a desegregated state-supported high school in the South.
Norris Dam was the first dam built in the Tennessee Valley Authority system and its location was one of the reasons why Oak Ridge was chosen for the Manhattan Project.
For information on Oak Ridge, Tenn., visit the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau at http://oakridgevisitor.com/.