Sometimes words are so perfect in their capture of an idea, and for me, whenever I hear the word “festival,” this small package of syllables does its job. “Festival” enters my ear with a crowd of tumblers, clowns, colors and streamers in its wake. Around this time of year in Tennessee, "festival" is the word sweeping the state. Several Tennessee small towns are greeting the onset of spring with food, music and dancing for everyone.
The Ramp Festival, held in Cosby, Tennessee, is the longest running festival in the State, and will be held on May 7-8 this year. Back in 1954, the members of Cocke County wanted to generate tourism and publicity for their area. So they brainstormed, trying to think of something noble, powerful, anything worthy of celebration. In the end, they found a common pride in the “ramp,” not to be confused with the “on-ramp” used for merging onto the freeway. The ramp, a member of the onion family and just as powerful in taste and aroma, was believed to hold the revitalizing quality of a spring tonic, and was chosen as the subject of their celebration. Since then, every year in Cocke County Tennessee, the people of this state celebrate heritage and springtime through music, dancing, food, and the crowning of a “Maid of Ramps.” In 1955, former President Harry Truman even attended.
Another festival held in the spring is the Bloomin’ Barbeque and Bluegrass festival. This family-geared celebration is held in tribute to the sound of Bluegrass music, the beauty of spring, and the taste of the barbeque. Located in Sevierville, held on May 20-21, there is no admission charge. You can just show up. Of course, food, drink and merchandise will be sold there, so don’t forget your wallet, but the Bluegrass Music will also be staged for free. And for those who live for the taste of delicious meats, hot and sizzling off the grill, a first class barbeque cook-off will be held, with barbeque teams coming to Sevierville from across the nation.
So if you’re in the neighborhood of Gatlinburg or Newport Tennessee around springtime, make sure to check and see if a festival is going on. Come experience the sights, sounds and feelings of a classic Tennessee festival, beneath the gaze of the beautiful Smoky Mountains.