Independence Day Celebrations in Middle Tennessee 2018

I hope y’all have a wonderful, safe holiday! God Bless America!

Whether you’re looking for an old-fashioned, small-town celebration, or a heart-pounding, star-studded event Continue reading “Independence Day Celebrations in Middle Tennessee 2018”

Planning for Fun in Centerville

What I really wanted to tell you about is the upcoming National Banana Pudding Festival, held the first week of October in Centerville, TN.

Sometimes, planning and preparing for an event is as much fun as the event itself. Continue reading “Planning for Fun in Centerville”

Get Your Happy Self to Downtown Nashville

Wouldn’t it be a waste to keep all that happy energy at home this weekend?

Yesterday, as I was driving through 12South at lunchtime, I watched a pickup truck pull into a lane occupied by a Porsche. Nobody was hurt, but some body shop will get a few thousand dollars’ worth of business. The really remarkable thing was that, as the drivers pulled off to a side street to exchange information, they didn’t look angry – they weren’t cussing – the driver of that dinged-up sportscar looked as peaceful and pleasant as can be.

That’s the effect this kind of weather can have on you. We’re all smiles in Nashville these days. Okay, granted, we’re all smiles in Nashville a lot of the time (it’s our thing), but when the summer heat and humidity finally break, and our morning walks are almost jacket-worthy, and the sky is refreshingly blue…and we know that Fall is just around the corner but we’re still busy celebrating Summer…well, it just makes us really happy. As the saying goes, “Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!?!”

Now, wouldn’t it be a waste to keep all that happy energy at home this weekend? Yes – yes, it would. So this weekend, you should get your happy self to downtown Nashville. You might not have tickets to any of the Americana Fest concerts, you may not want to pay to spend the day rubbing shoulders with celebrity chefs at the Music City Food & Wine Festival, the German-themed Volksfest at the Nashville Farmers Market might not be your cup of bier (you see what I did there?), hanging out with emerging businesses at the SoBro Fest, Jazz on the Cumberland River might not Sound Like Fun to you, spending a couple of hours inside at the Home Decorating and Remodeling Show may not be of interest, and you may be bored with the idea of a Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party.

What are you, nuts?!? The point is, ALL of these are special events going on – most of them outdoors, a few of them free! So how does this sound for a weekend plan…put on your walking shoes, catch a bus or rideshare downtown and just start enjoying yourself! Maybe you can stop into a souvenir shop and get a new Nashville t-shirt. Perhaps this will be your opportunity to try one of the downtown restaurants that get so crowded. If your timing’s good, you can pause on the narrow strip of lawn by the Gateway Bridge and listen in on Steve Earle’s set at Ascend Amphitheater. Or now is the time you can go check out Trisha Yearwood’s and Garth Brook’s new stars at the Music City Walk of Fame Park.

This is one weekend where the idea of heading downtown with no particular place to go Sounds Like Fun to me. Perhaps I’ll see you…and we’ll both be smiling!

Get Greek! in Nashville

Enjoy the livelier aspects of Greek culture starting Friday at the annual Nashville Greek Festival.

“There are two kinds of people – Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.” – Gus Portokalus in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”

Although Nashville isn’t known for having ethnic “cities within a city,” there are pockets of international culture within our town that occasionally bubble up as festivals for all to enjoy. This week, The Athens of the South gets its Greek on. Continue reading “Get Greek! in Nashville”

Become a Nashville Native – in Murfreesboro!

How long do you have to live in Nashville before you’re considered a native? Because this area has always been welcoming of new citizens, it’s not uncommon to find that, in any crowd, relatively few people actually were born and raised in this town. But after 15 years or so, people start claiming “native” status. I have a theory that you actually become a Native Nashvillian the first summer you learn to embrace the heat and humidity, frizzy hair and sweaty clothes, and go out and enjoy the great summertime activities in our area. (There is a corollary that this is also the time that you forget how to drive in frozen precipitation.) If you’re a Nashville transplant, this weekend is a perfect opportunity for your initiation – ironically, I’m going to suggest that you make a 30-minute trip to Murfreesboro for that rite! (If you’ve already achieved “native” status, you probably already have this on your calendar!)

Once hailed as the capitol city of Tennessee (1818-1826), Murfreesboro sits at the geographic “center” of our long, flat state. Home to Middle Tennessee State University (where enrollment rivals that of UT-Knoxville), this bustling city is much more than a bedroom community for Nashville. Sure, there are plenty of chain restaurants and big-name shops to support the local population – but there’s just enough of old Murfreesboro still present to make it a fun day trip from Nashville.

This weekend (July 10-12) is particularly enticing – head to town early and you can start your day with breakfast at the City Café, just off the courthouse square. There’s free parking at the City Garage near the courthouse – a few blocks away. This friendly and historic “Meat & 3” is renowned for their lunches (and their freshly baked rolls), but they make a good traditional breakfast, too. They open at 6am – I recommend arriving no later than 7:30 because it gets crowded!

After breakfast, take a stroll around the grounds of the Rutherford County Courthouse rutherfordcountycourthouseand enjoy the Main Street Saturday Market – a traditional farmers’ market. Local tomatoes should just be coming in about now, and it’s a sure bet that you can find corn, cucumbers, beans and peaches – along with fresh baked goods and lovely flowers. (Plan ahead and put a cooler in your vehicle to store your purchases while you linger in “the ‘boro.”) The market runs from 8am – noon each Saturday from June through August.

Enjoy the sounds of Uncle Dave Mason – “Sail Away Ladies”

As the day heats up, so does the fun – after dropping off your farmers market purchases in your vehicle (and picking up your folding chairs), you can walk over to Historic Canonsburgh Village, where Uncle Dave Macon Days will be in full swing. Named for the King of the Banjo and one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry, this event has grown from an afternoon banjo-pickin’ contest into annual 3-day music and artisan festival that celebrates old-time music and dancing. If you go on Saturday, you’ll have missed Friday’s Harmonica, Dulcimer and Jug Band competitions – and you’ll also miss seeing Dr. Ralph Stanley perform. (He’s scheduled to take the stage on Friday at 8 pm.) But you’ll get to see the Buck Dance and Clogging finals, and hear the Fiddle, Banjo Competitions, and see the finalists perform in the Bluegrass Band and Old Time Band competitions. You’ll also get to hear The Steeldrivers, who take the stage at 8 pm.

Plan on eating festival food for lunch and dinner, or take a break from the heat and visit one of the local restaurants within walking distance. Visit the local services tents to learn what community agencies are active in Rutherford County – one of these tents is sure to be giving away cardboard fans, which are a blessing on a hot July day!

Tickets for Uncle Dave Macon Days are $10/day for adults (3-day pass for $20), $5/day for seniors (age 55+) at the gate; children 12 and under are admitted free. Folding chairs are welcome.

I can pretty much guarantee that, after enjoying a hot summer day of fun in Murfreesboro this weekend, you’ll drive back home happy, hot and tired, and feeling like you’ve earned your “Nashville Native” badge!

The Truth About the Nashville Hot Chicken Festival

I need to tell you about my experience at the Nashville Hot Chicken Festival a few years ago.

Y’all, I try to keep this blog positive. I really do. And I do love hot chicken. (Not the dumbed-down versions sold by Hattie B’s or Pepperfire.) But I need to tell you about my experience at the Nashville Hot Chicken Festival a few years ago. And, after reviewing their website, it doesn’t look like this year’s event is any different.

  • There’s a parade. That can be kinda fun. It’s in the morning (starts at 10:30) before it gets too awfully hot outside.
  • After the parade, the first 500 people get a free sample of hot chicken, after standing in line. Well, whoopity-do! While you’re standing in line for your free sample, other people are lining up at the hot chicken vendor stands.
  • There is no way that you will have time to taste more than one kind of hot chicken at this event. When I went, I chose the Bolton’s Hot Chicken line. I stood in line for OVER AN HOUR to place my order (only to be told that they weren’t serving hot-level spice – the hottest I could get was medium). Then, after placing my order and paying, I waited and ADDITIONAL 45 MINUTES for my food order to be prepared.
  • Food in hand (and about to pass out from standing in line in the sun), I headed to the Yazoo beer tent, and managed to get a beer in just under 20 minutes. Then, I was able to stand in the crowded beer tent, delicately balancing a hot chicken meal in one hand and a cool beer in the other.

In other words, if you go to the Hot Chicken Festival, be prepared to be too wiped out from the heat and standing in line to do anything else all day (including visiting the amazing shows at the Riverfront as part of the Independence Day celebration). This does not Sound Like Fun.

If you want to sample hot chicken, just go visit the restaurants! My favorite is 400 Degrees Hot Chicken in the food plaza at 3rd & Peabody. (I get the 200 degrees tenders.) I also really like Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish (Medium is plenty spicy). If you want to get out of town, go to Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish in Franklin (Stop, Drop & Roll is the way to go.) If you just enjoy good fried chicken without a lot of spice, go to Hattie B’s or Pepperfire. I have to admit that I haven’t tried the original, iconic Hot Chicken at Prince’s – because that place has strange hours and is in a neighborhood that scares me a little.

Best of the Fests – Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree & Crafts Festival

What started as a small town festival back in 1972 has grown to a major event, drawing hundreds of amateur musicians, dancers and artisans, and thousands of spectators from around the world.

I have to admit that it’s been many years since I last attended the Fiddlers’ Jamboree in Smithville, TN. It’s a really wonderful music festival, but it’s always held the Friday and Saturday nearest the 4th of July, so there’s always plenty of competition for weekend entertainment around then. Despite my absence, this event has continued to grow and improve – What started as a small town festival back in 1972 has grown to a major event, drawing hundreds of amateur musicians, dancers and artisans, and thousands of spectators from around the world.

The mission of the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival is to preserve and perpetuate traditional Appalachian and Old-Time music, dance, and crafts. So, you’re not going to hear “Sweet Home Alabama,” and you’re not going to see twerking, and you’re not going to be able to buy a Shamwow. But the Festival does offer a good variety within its genre – when you tally up the number of competition categories, there will be up to 35 separate competitions over the 2-day event.

Competition begins each day at 9:00 am, and continues until that day’s contests have finished. The final contest on Saturday is a “fiddle-off” between the winners of the Junior (up to age 40) and Senior (40+) fiddler contests to select a Grand Champion.

So whether you visit the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree & Crafts Festival as your destination activity, or as a part of your holiday weekend travel to Center Hill Lake, or one of the state parks nearby (Edgar Evins to the north near I-40, or Rock Island to the south, between McMinnville and Sparta), I think you’ll understand why this little festival has grown to a large tradition.

To get to Smithville from downtown Nashville, take I-40 East to the Lebanon/Watertown exit (239A), then head southeast on US 70/TN-26 about 33 miles. Allow about 1 ¼ hours for the one-way trip.

CMA Fest Bingo!

Enhance your CMA Fest experience and win a prize! CMA Fest BINGO

If you’re coming to Nashville for the CMA Fest next weekend (or headed down to Manchester for Bonnaroo), you really don’t need my advice on what to do to have fun. So I’m going to take a week off and try to avoid areas around the airport or downtown.

I can’t just leave you empty-handed, though – so if you’re wanting to get a  great Nashville experience during what we locals still call “Fan Fair”, I’ve created a little BINGO game for you. The attached card lists awesome, weird and hilarious things you may see while you’re in town. As incentive, I’m offering a prize for anyone who can prove a winning card by snapping photos. Not quite sure yet what the prize will be – depends on how many winners we have! You can respond to this post letting me know you’ve got an entry, and we’ll figure out how to validate your card.

Y’all have fun and be careful! To get started, click on the link below:

CMA Fest Bingo

p.s. If you’re staying in town and want to get an “immersion experience” without actually attending the CMA Fest, you can play the game, too.

5 Steps to Planning a Day of Fun in Middle Tennessee

Here’s how to plan a “Day of Fun” – the extraordinary gift of spending an entire day together

Summertime is the time of anniversaries and birthdays at our house. We’ve celebrated enough of both to make traditional gift-giving seem impractical – even slightly ridiculous. (As I explained in my Valentine’s Day article, we usually don’t even buy cards for each other any longer!)  In this article, I’m going to tell you how to plan a “Day of Fun” – the extraordinary gift of spending an entire day together sharing interests and experiences. This particular itinerary will be planned for Saturday, June 6 – which happens to be our wedding anniversary!

Step 1 – Choose the First Event – There are a number of festivals going on in small towns across Middle Tennessee on June 6. You might select the Wartrace Music Festival (10am – 10pm), or the Folk Medicine Festival in Red Boiling Springs (9am – 6pm). For this weekend, I’ve chosen the Coopertown Barrel Festival (10am – 4pm) as our First Event, which means that we want to arrive in Coopertown sometime between 10am and noon. But first – breakfast!

Step 2 – Pick a breakfast spot on the way. Put some effort into this selection – this might be the time that you finally try to get a table at one of Nashville’s new brunch hot spots like Biscuit Love or Fenwick’s 300. (Or you might just head over for the terrific breakfast and friendly service at Nashville Biscuit House in East Nashville.) In our case, since we know our First Event is in Robertson County, I spent a little time on Google and discovered a promising breakfast spot – The Country Junction in Joelton, TN.

Step 3 – Pick an alternate morning activity. Okay, let’s say that we arrive at the Coopertown Barrel Festival at about 11 am, and we’ve seen all there is to see by 11:30. Or, let’s say that the heavens let loose and we decide that slogging about in the rain doesn’t Sound Like Fun. Part of the reason for picking the Barrel Festival in the first place is that we enjoy learning about whiskey distillation. So, if we end up needing to stay indoors, we’re likely to head over to Prichard’s in Joelton, or down to Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Marathon Village (or both) for a tour. Or, if we’re feeling ambitious, we might go up to Bowling Green, KY to tour the Corsair Distillery (and get a stamp for another destination on the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail).

Step 4 – There Will Be Barbecue! After the big breakfast we’ve planned, we’re probably not going to be hungry until almost mid-afternoon. And, though it’s sometimes fun to just choose a restaurant based on what looks good (and open) as you’re driving by, I tend to get impatient once hunger strikes! So, it’s a great idea to check out Yelp! (or some such service) so that you’ll know a good local barbecue joint that’s not too far out of the way. For my itinerary, I looked for something in Springfield – I see that top-reated Willie Mae’s is closed on the weekends, but J.L. Baldwin & Son’s Pit Barbecue is open and reviews are solid!

Step 5 – Chill Time. There’s nothing like a cold beverage and some live music to round out a Day of Fun. Of course, we have several favorite music venues in Nashville we could visit – but at Beachaven Vineyards and Winery in Clarksville, we can set our lawn chairs out and listen to some great music – FREE! (All we have to pay for is the wine we drink.) This Saturday’s artist is the “World Famous” Jim Gibson, playing blues/jazz guitar.

So, there you have it – 5 steps to a spectacular Day of Fun! I’ll be featuring additional itineraries in the future. Feel free to share any successful itineraries you’ve crafted – let’s make our summer memorable!

Best of the Fests – Tennessee Renaissance Festival

For four glorious weekends each May, the grounds of Castle Gwynn in Arrington, TN are magically transformed to become the 16th century village of Covington Glen, as the Tennessee Renaissance Festival comes to town.

For four glorious weekends each May, the grounds of Castle Gwynn in Arrington, TN are magically transformed to become the 16th century village of Covington Glen, as the Tennessee Renaissance Festival comes to town. After many years of intending (but failing) to attend, I finally made the trip this year. My royal decree? This is one event near Nashville that Sounds Like Fun for young & old, hipster & redneck, fantasy buff & history buff. In fact, the crowd last Sunday was one of the most diverse I can recall seeing at a single event. Adult admission is $20 a head ($18 if purchased in advance); Children ages 6-12 can enter for $7 apiece. Parking is free. (You read that right. It’s free!)

Here are my top 6 suggestions for enjoying yourself at the Renaissance Festival:

  1. Bring your kids – in costume! Break out parts of last year’s Halloween costume and spend a little time and creative energy turning it into a Renaissance-era masterpiece. Fortunately, there’s a lot of leeway in this genre – your child can come as a fairy or gnome, or Viking or pirate, or princess or wildling or wizard. You can buy face paint, elf ears, crowns … really anything you might need to complete the look. There’s a children’s costume contest each festival afternoon at 12:30. Most entertainment is G-rated; the bawdier stuff will go right over the little kids’ heads. For bigger kids, there are human-powered carnival rides that look every bit as exciting and dizzying as the Tilt-A-Whirl at the State Fair.
  2. Come in costume yourself! The family that plays together stays together, y’all. Imagine your child’s (or grandchild’s) delight when the whole family unit comes to the Renaissance Festival dressed up in the spirit of fun. I’m not saying that renting a costume is necessary, but some riding boots, a vest and a jaunty cap can transform Dad into a respectable tradesman; Mom almost certainly has a maxi skirt and a tunic top that be pulled into service for the day. You won’t be the only adults dressed up – in fact, so many people dress up for this that it can be difficult to tell the citizens of Covington Glen from the visitors!
  3. Eat a smoked turkey leg. It’s messy, it’s hot, it’s primal. (It’s also gluten-free, carb-free and Paleo!) There is an abundance of standard carnival food choices, so if you really must have a hamburger or pizza, you’ll find it. But I do recommend gnawing on a $9 smoked turkey leg to help you get into the spirit of the day. And, if you’re over age 21, wash it down with a cold beer or hard cider. ($6; $7 premium brands)
  4. Watch the shows. You could easily spend an entire day at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival and not see the same show twice. Slapstick comedies, entertaining characters, exciting sporting events and talented musicians fill the town. The shows begin on time, so check the schedule or you may miss something!
  5. Be comfortable. Fortunately, there’s plenty of tree cover in Covington Glen, so you don’t have to spend your day roasting in the strong May sunshine. The jousting grounds has no tree cover, so you may want to bring (or buy) a pretty umbrella to shade yourself while watching – but the rest of the festival grounds are shady and relatively cool. The grounds are also a bit hilly, though – the few women I saw wearing heels looked as if they were regretting that decision.
  6. Obey the (very reasonable) rules. No pets, no firearms, no outside food or beverages. Swords or knives worn as part of a costume must be “peace tied.” Parents should take steps to make sure their children can contact them in case they get separated.

I know I’ll be back to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival – I hope to see you there! (I’ll be one of the ones wearing elf ears.)