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22nd annual Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Festival held

Music could not only be heard across three stages during the Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival, but also throughout festival grounds as attendees were encouraged to bring their own instruments. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)
Music could not only be heard across three stages during the Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival, but also throughout festival grounds as attendees were encouraged to bring their own instruments. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

By Brad Hicks

As soon as the gates opened at 10 a.m., the cars began to cover the large field at the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens in Unicoi.

Within a couple of hours, this field was full of vehicles and the Farmhouse grounds were filled by folks looking to take in the classic cars, food, crafts and non-stop music offered throughout the day.

The Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Festival, a late-April tradition in the Town of Unicoi, was held Saturday at the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens. The event featured live music from nearly 20 acts on three indoor and outdoor stages – the Farmhouse pavilion, gazebo and porch.

“People love that they can hop from each stage,” said Sarah Jennings, Unicoi’s director of parks and recreation and public relations director. “There’s never a lull or anything like that in the music. There’s always music playing.”

There was also plenty of music across the festival grounds. Many attendees brought their own music instruments to take part in impromptu jam sessions with fellow festival goers.

“As you walk through the farm, you’ll see some different bands just kind of set up in different places, and they’re just sitting here picking with their friends, having fun,” Jennings said. “It’s a really relaxed atmosphere. Everybody likes it because it’s not real rushed or anything like that. We’re all hanging out and we’re having a good time.”

This marked the 22nd year for the annual Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Festival. And while the heart of the event has remained very much the same, a new group has been tasked with carrying on the tradition.

For its first 21 years, Fiddlers & Fiddleheads was organized by Town of Unicoi Mayor and Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens owner Johnny Lynch. However, this year, Lynch called upon the Town of Unicoi Business Alliance to coordinate the event.

“The mayor has typically done it, and this year he said, ‘It’s a lot to put on this festival,’ and so he said, ‘I’d like for the Business Alliance to take this on,’ to kind of take some off him,” Jennings said. “The Business Alliance was very excited to take on this event just because it’s an established event. People already come, so we took it and we said, ‘What can we do to make this amazing event even better?’”

New additions to this year’s festival included food vendors offering a variety of fare, as well as a number of craft vendors with booths set up throughout festival grounds. The East Tennessee Model A Restorers Club once again held a car show on the grounds. Jennings, who said the festival took several months of planning to pull together, said the additions, as well as the festival itself, was well-received.

“We’re very pleased with the success of this,” Jennings said at around noon on Saturday. “We’re getting to capacity with parking, so we’re very pleased. It’s been a very steady crowd throughout the day, and we’re excited.”

Jeff Linville, an alderman for the Town of Unicoi and treasurer of the town’s Business Alliance, said the event not only provides attendees with entertainment, but the festival helps the local economy. He said local businesses were heavily visited by festival attendees along with spectators and participants of the East Tennessee Model A Hill Climb held in Unicoi the day before Fiddlers & Fiddleheads.

“We’ve got a lot of our craft vendors here from Unicoi and Unicoi County, so it gives them an opportunity to put their stuff out there,” Linville said.

And, Jennings added, the Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Festival is a Unicoi tradition that will continue to live on.

“We look forward to the 23rd annual one,” she said.