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Exchange Place will host Fall Folk Arts Festival

Contributed Photo • After being cancelled in 2020, the Exchange Place Fall Folk Arts Festival returns in 2021.

From Staff Reports

Exchange Place Living History Farm in Kingsport will usher in autumn when it hosts the 49th edition of its Fall Folk Arts Festival. Always eagerly anticipated – and especially so after last year’s event was cancelled by COVID-19 — this harvest season celebration will be held on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 26, from noon until 5 p.m. Admission is $5, with those under the age of 12 admitted free. With major support from the Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Homes, all proceeds go towards the care of the farm’s animals and the continued restoration and preservation of the site, located at 4812 Orebank Road in Kingsport, Tennessee. And this year, because the virus remains a presence in our region, all CDC protocols will be followed, including keeping the historic buildings closed, and strongly urging all visitors to wear masks and maintain a safe distance from others.

Artists from around the region will gather to demonstrate 19th century crafts, as well as to sell a wide array of traditional folk arts and hand-crafted arts of today. Plants for fall planting will also be available, as well as dried flowers, seasonal crafts, local honey, goat milk cheeses, salsas and hot sauces, and stone ground cornmeal, grits and more.

In addition, several acclaimed heritage artists will be on the grounds during the weekend. George McCollum, a long-time member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, will be making his widely-celebrated miniature white oak baskets (on Saturday only). Master crafter Heather Ashworth, of the Arrowmont School of the Arts in Gatlinburg, will be offering two traditional broom-making workshops on Sunday, at noon and again at 2:30 p.m. Students will bind two whisk hand brooms, using broom corn and colorful cord. The cost of this unique workshop is $65 and includes all materials. Registration is required by Sunday, Sept. 19,  at [email protected] (It must be noted that the classes will only be held if at least five people enroll.)

A highlight of the festival will be an extensive display of historic clocks and watches curated by master clock mechanic Rod Groenewold and members of the Watauga Chapter of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. Groenewold has been fascinated by clocks and watches for more than forty years, and now he and the other members of the group will display and sell part of their collections of historic timepieces. The group is also inviting festival visitors to bring in clocks and watches for free appraisals. A silent auction will offer three antique clocks from his collection to the highest bidders. One is an eight-day keywind clock that dates to 1919, one is a cast-iron mantle clock made in 1890, and the third is an Ansonia Clock Company “Antler” clock, made around 1905. These clocks will be on display and can be bid on at their booth, with the proceeds benefiting Exchange Place.

Contributed Photos • Master crafter Heather Ashworth, of the Arrowmont School of the Arts in Gatlinburg will conduct broom-making workshops.

History is always alive throughout the farm. While the log kitchen will be closed as it undergoes a restoration, the Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society, and our energetic Junior Apprentices, will prepare some of the foods the Preston family would have eaten in the mid-nineteenth century, using the bread oven and an outdoor fire (weather permitting). They will also be demonstrating gourd crafting in the yard of the restored Cook’s Cabin. The blacksmith’s shop will be open, demonstrating the various tasks that made the “smithy” such a valuable person in antebellum America. Behind the blacksmith’s shop, sorghum will, once again, be milled and cooked (only on Saturday, please note). Mules will do the milling in the morning (they will not be available for rides or for petting), and the cooking process will be done throughout the afternoon. Our resident fiber artists – better known as the Overmountain Weavers’ Guild — will demonstrate the intricacies of spinning and weaving on the Roseland porch and in the Burow Museum. Boy Scout Troop #387 will be demonstrating rope-making, and they plan to sell whatever ropes they create, with all proceeds being donated to Exchange Place.

Activities for the youngsters are always prominent during these Exchange Place fetes, and children of all ages will not only get to play the kinds of games that the Preston family would have played, but they will be encouraged to try their hands at some of the “chores” that were expected of young people on an antebellum farm, such as creating toys and grinding corn.

The traditional Fall Scarecrow Challenge will not be held this year. There will, however, be an area set aside where visitors can add to the creation of the Exchange Place scarecrows, and learn their long and interesting history. However, other popular Festival traditions remain, including being able to meet and greet all of the heritage breed of animals that live on the farmstead all year long, and listening to the wide selection of regional musicians who provide an Americana soundtrack to the surroundings.

One of Exchange Place’s most popular events every year is Witches Wynd, a Halloween-based storytelling adventure. As of this writing, no decision has been made about how, or if, it will be presented this year. An official announcement will be forthcoming.

For more information, you may call Exchange Place at (423) 288-6071, email [email protected], or visit And please remember that all existing CDC protocols will be followed, including social distancing, and organizers are strongly urging everyone to wear a mask.

Exchange Place is a living history farm, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, whose mission is to preserve and interpret the heritage of mid-nineteenth century farm life in Northeast Tennessee. Exchange Place is a non-profit organization maintained and operated entirely by volunteers and is supported by donations, fundraisers, memberships and grants.