By Mike Steely
The East Tennessee History Fair was more than anyone could have expected. Thousands of people came to Knoxville recently and visited the many events, booths, demonstrations, exhibits, and chatted with history re-enactors.
The Saturday event flirted with rain all day but people didn’t seem to mind. There was something for everyone including children’s activities, antique sales and food trucks, a World War I baseball game, historic home tours, and even a cemetery tour and vintage films at the Tennessee Theatre.
Cherel Henderson, director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, said that attendance overall was down about 20% because of the off and on again showers however attendance at the East Tennessee History Museum was up as people took shelter there to see the displays and artifacts.
The first year of the History Fair, in 2008, saw some 7,000 people attending. Last year Henderson said that 16,000 people came to the fair. “Family-friendly activities for all ages and interests, from a dog costume contest to a checkers tournament and living history interpreters, plus bus tours of historic sites and traditional music, were well received,” Henderson said.
“Some 69 organizations from across our 35-county region and several from Nashville were represented with booths and activities,” she added.
While Market Square and Gay Street played heavily in the events of the fair lots of merchants got involved as well. The Market Square Farmer’s Market added to the festivities and the bus and walking tours added to the celebration as well.
Exhibitors ranged from the East Tennessee Historical Museum, Tennessee State Parks, the soon-to-open Tennessee State Museum, The Muse, Davy Crockett’s Birthday Celebration, and living history at Crutch Park and on Clinch Avenue. Demonstrators included spinning, caning and basket weaving, handmade jewelry, tin and copper making, handmade quilts, soap, powder horns, and leather-bound journals.
Re-enactors represented the Fort Loudoun State Historic Area, Civil War soldiers of both sides, suffragists, WWI and WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars and various characters of Tennessee Living History.
Even Abe and Mary Lincoln appeared along with General Robert E. Lee and Ed Archer portraying a Mexican-American War surgeon.
The unveiling of the base of the Harry and Feb Burn statues was a highlight of the fair with community leader Vivian Shipe and County Clerk Sherry Witt doing the honors. The sides of the base give a history of the Right to Vote for Women, information on the Burn family, and one plaque listing the donors for the statue. They were Maureen McBride, Lana McGee, Anne M. McKinney, Randy McNally, Marion Reed, Brenda Creddick, Patricia Pierce, Adonia Phillips, Mary Ann Reeves, Pat Bryan, Lauren Rider, Ann Elizabeth Robinson-Craig, Madeline Rogero, Rogers @ Drevik, Wanda G. Sobieski and John L. Sobieski Jr., Nancy P. Stewart, Liz Stowers, Ann and Kitt Valone, Martha Keck Waggoner, Sylvia Woods, and Sherry Witt.