Exchange Place Living History Farm will welcome in the beautiful season of autumn when it hosts its annual Fall Folk Arts Festival. Always eagerly anticipated, this celebration of pioneer arts and crafts and the harvest season will be held on Saturday, September 29, from 10 am until 5 pm, and Sunday, September 30 from noon until 5 pm. Admission is $5, with those under the age of 12 admitted free. 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 listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For the 47th consecutive year, artists from 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. Pumpkins and other autumn produce, dried flowers, and plants for fall planting, as well as a wide range of baked goods and goat milk cheeses, will be available.
Festival visitors will be able to learn about, and purchase, some centuries-old crafts, such as hand-made oak rockers, cuckoo clocks, paintings on slate, dough bowls carved from one single log, and jewelry and utilitarian household items created out of wire (popularized in the 1800’s by tinkers). With cooler weather on its way, socks will definitely be a necessity, and you can see them being crafted on a 19th-century knitting machine. Other artisans will be offering a wide range of wares, from framed photographs to primitive dolls to handmade soaps to paper quilling to unique hand-thrown pottery.
This year’s featured Heritage Artist is acclaimed basket maker George McCollum, from Athens, TN. A long-time member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, Mr. McCollum has been making his award-winning miniature white oak baskets for almost four decades. (Please note that Mr. McCollum will only be present on Saturday, September 29.)
Guilds have thrived over many centuries. These associations of craftspeople from a particular trade of craft will be well-represented at the Festival as the Overmountain Weavers’ Guild will demonstrate spinning and weaving; the Tri-State Basket Guild teaches basket-making to children and youths; and the Senior Artisans, the First Frontier Quilters, and the Renaissance Wood Artists demonstrate their skills.
Introduced at last year’s Fall Festival, sorghum will be cooked once again, in a special area located behind the blacksmith’s shop. Sorghum cane planted earlier this year will be cut, stripped and washed in preparation for the time-consuming task of making sorghum. Mules will turn the mill to squeeze the juice from the cane on Saturday, September 29, beginning with the opening of the gates at 10:00 am and continuing until around noon. (We request, by the way, that the mules be observed from a distance; no one will be allowed to ride them or pet them.) The juice will then be boiled until the water has evaporated, to the point where only pure sorghum is left in the pan. This process will take most of the afternoon, with the sorghum likely be taken off the fire around 4:00 or 5:00 pm. On Sunday, September 30, with the milling and cooking completed, volunteers will be on hand during the afternoon to talk about the mill, the cane, and the process of making sorghum. Guests may visit the cane patch and compare the sorghum cane with the sugar cane to see the differences up close. (Please note that the syrup we produce is for demonstration purposes only, but we will be offering for sale some 100% pure sorghum syrup, made fresh this year by the Guenther family in Muddy Pond, TN.
History, as always, comes alive throughout the farm. In the log kitchen, 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, and outside – weather permitting, of course – they will fire up the newly-covered bread oven to bake sweet potato biscuits. Nearby, apple butter will be cooking, and everyone will be invited to take a turn stirring the kettle. The blacksmith’s shop will be open, demonstrating the various tasks that made the “smithy” such a valuable crafts person in antebellum America. Kendy Sawyer will be on hand on throughout the weekend with her working steers, Cannon and Cole. She will be available to answer all questions, and explain, for instance, that a “working steer” means the animal is trained to work but is not yet old enough to officially be classified as an ox.
Children’s activities are always prominent during the Festival, and this year’s focus is on heritage toys and games. Modern-day youngsters (and their parents and grandparents!) will learn that, in the years prior to the War Between the States, toys and games were usually made from scraps of materials left from things that were built or made around the farm. Kids will be able to make and take home “buzz saws,” and they will have the opportunity to hand-crank a jump rope on a machine that was typical of the kind used at that time. Children of all ages will also be encouraged to try their hands at some of the “chores” that were expected of them on the farm. New this year will be the first annual Tom Lane Top Challenge. Tom was a very active volunteer at Exchange Place, as well as a gardener and wood crafter, who passed away unexpectedly this summer. In his honor, a Top Challenge has been devised, with a large top scheduled to be given to the winner.
Even with all of the new features, many popular Festival traditions remain. Visitors can still see the heritage breed of animals living on the farmstead. The Sullivan County 4-H Club will again be organizing the popular Scarecrow Challenge, which encourages individuals, groups and families to be creative as they continue the tradition of making a scarecrow. To be judged Scarecrows must be on site by 11 am Saturday. A variety of food items will be available for purchase, including kettle corn, funnel cakes, fried pies, lunch items, and more. And as always during festivals, the grounds of the farmstead will be alive with music, with old and new favorites will be playing throughout the weekend.
One of Exchange Place’s most popular events every year is Witches Wynd, a Halloween-based storytelling adventure, which will take place on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27, beginning each night at 8 pm. Tickets go on sale for the first time during the Fall Folk Arts Festival. Only a limited number of tickets are available every year and they sell out quickly, so we encourage people to purchase them at the Festival. Tickets are $10 apiece and will be found at the Museum Store.
For more information, you may call Exchange Place at 423-288-6071, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at https://www.exchangeplace.info.
Exchange Place is a living history farm 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.