Being as this year is the first year East TN Tours has been in business, we felt it ever so appropriate to check out the 2016 East Tennessee History Fair in downtown Knoxville this past Saturday. And let me tell you, it was a memorable day! My husband and I usually known and go for the cheapest or "close to free as possible" types of entertainment or dates for ourselves, so this was right up our alley. I wasn't able to find much myself doing research ahead of time about the fair trying to plan our day that was an outsiders perspective on the activities and what the day was going to be like. So my goal in what you'll read below is to give future fair goers an idea of what they might (and I would mostly assume) expect, if they went next year!
(We arrive downtown about 10:30 AM)
The Farmers Market:
So the farmers market would actually have been there on Saturday, regardless if the history fair was going on or not. This farmers market actually runs from May 4-November 16 on Saturdays from 9-2. This was the first time I've ever been to this also, not just the history fair, and I enjoyed it so much. This reminds me of a TRUE farmers market, not like some in other cities I've been to that seem to be more like an "artisan" market mostly selling crafts, jewelry or non food items. We had planned on spending almost all the day downtown, so we didn't buy anything except a bag of wonderful natural dog treats from Barley Bones which is out of Chattanooga. There is such a wide array of things to get at this market, from produce, meats and farm products, pottery, jewelry, pet items, wood work, furniture and much much more. I definitely plan to make this a regular stop on the weekend before one of our tours start in the afternoon!
The "History Hound Dog Costume Contest":
Now this is one thing hubby and I did NOT go witness or partake in, as we sometimes (as I like to think most people do) like to sleep in a little late on the weekends and not get up so early. The registration for the contest was at 9:30 am, with the actual contest being at 10:15, with a few local famous people announcing and judging. The whole thing takes place on the WDVX radio and Clayton Country music stage right in the middle of all the activities and booths outside the History Center, and give away prizes for "best historic costume" and "most East Tennessee spirit". I'm sure it was cute to see and fun to watch, but we just didn't quite make it out there that early...
The Living History Timeline, Antique Market and Reenactments Throughout:
This was probably one of, if not the most, favorite things of myself and my husbands that we saw the whole day at the East Tennessee History Fair. The plethora of people walking around dressed up from time periods all the way back to the French and Indian War, to the Korean and Vietnam Wars, to World War II and the Civil War was a sight to see. One thing I WILL warn you of, because I wish I would have read it somewhere or someone would have told us, was that there was going to be simulation gun shots and rifle firing going off throughout the day. Let me tell ya, when you're not expecting to hear that noise for the first time, it sends a shock wave down your body! The antiques market part of the street was something I read was new to the history fair this year also. We're not much for buying antiques and the like, but it was cool to walk down and see the old artifacts and hidden treasure these people had on display.
By this time after enjoying the market and pretty much viewing all the booths available, we decided it was time to each some lunch at...
The Stock and Barrel:
All I have to say is...OMG THIS PLACE IS DELICIOUS! This is the first time either of us had ever been there, and we were NOT disappointed. We had not eaten breakfast earlier that day or anything, so we managed to finish the burgers and most of the fries and onion rings. I imagine if you had eaten earlier in the day, you'd be taking leftover burger home with you also, as we saw many (grown men) do. For my Elvis burger, I honestly never would have guessed peanut butter, bananas and bacon would be good on top of a hamburger, but they managed to make it spectacular. And for my husband, he doesn't even LIKE most pimento cheeses or fried green tomatoes, but, of course, he adored this burger. We will definitely be coming back here more.
Tennessee Theater Open House:
After lunch, it was perfect timing to go in the Tennessee Theater for it's second open house of the day, running from 1-about 2:30 (they also did the same open house earlier in the day from 10-11:30). It was starting to get to that "middle of the day hotness where you don't even want to be outside" temperature, so the theater provided a nice relief. I have only ever been in this theater once for a paying show anyway years ago, so this was an amazing experience to get to see the stage up close and personal (with the breathtaking Wurlitzer organ on display might I add) and the chance to go to the dressing rooms which are usually restricted access. There was plenty of theater staff/volunteers around to answer questions and point you in the right direction.
The Museum of East Tennessee History:
Also a wonderful relief from the heat outdoors was the FREE admission to the East TN History Museum! Neither hubby or I have ever been in here either, so this was a first time experience for us as well. Open from 10-5, they have their signature exhibit of "Voices of the land: The people of East Tennessee" and their feature exhibit "Come to make records: Knoxville's Contributions to American Popular Music." Both of these exhibits were a joy to walk through, with the Voices of the Land one being very informative on the history of East Tennessee, and having a wide array of items displayed from years gone by. Personally, that is my favorite part of going to any museum-the actual viewing of old time artifacts, not necessarily the reading of page after page or paragraphs on a wall of historical information. I'm like the person you ask "Do you read?" "Why yes, picture books!" I feel like you could literally spend the ENTIRE day in that museum and still not even fully read every word in that place. It was great fun, and even better, it was free!
We were thirsty at this point so we (for the first time as well) tried some fresh pressed juice from Market House Cafe. We both got the "Apple-achian" which is a blend of lime, green apple and strawberry. #delicious
Walking Tour with Jack Neely:
The picture of Immaculate Conception Church seems to be the ONLY picture I took while on Jack Neely's walking tour. Now this the part of the day when you're already tired and worn down from literally walking the better part of the day in downtown, and we knew, and were warned ahead of time, that this was not an ordinary "walking tour" but more of an "urban hike." Which we were totally okay with. I saw online it started at 4pm and a website said "reservations recommended" so I called the day before to reserve two spots (whatever that meant because they had no way of seeing who had reserved "spots" and anyone who decided they wanted to come could). The tour was to meet outside the entrance of the History Center, and when we arrived about 15 minutes prior, there was already about, I'd say, 30 other people waiting as well. Jack arrived right on time, offered anyone a free water bottle that wanted it and said we'd be walking about 2.5 miles total. Which was fine and dandy, EXCEPT that we and a few other people had asked people working outside of the museum how long this was expected to last, and got an answer of "about 45 minutes to an hour." So when we started to walk and I really thought about what he said of "2.5 miles total" I'm thinking "there's NO WAY we're going to walk that much in an hour! There's no way!" Hubby and I just went with the flow, and started to follow the massive group behind Jack, first to Market Square. Now this tour was most definitely informative and loaded with information. He took us all the way up to the Immaculate Conception Church, which is the highest point downtown, and explained old Irish Town, which you could view down below (obviously not there anymore). We then walked to I don't even know where, and just kept walking and walking. At some point we made it to the Old City, and I think it was about 630 at this point. As predicted, this was NOT a 45 minute to an hour walk, and what made it even worse was there was basically NO WHERE to ever find a seat or sit down when Jack did do his presentations and gave information. Talk about killer on the legs when you're already walking that far! After we were in Old city and Jack and the rest of the group followed him even further away from main downtown, we decided it was time to leave the group and head back. A few other people must have been getting tired also, because we weren't the only ones departing the pack. Would I do it again, probably yes. But I'd like to know in advance how long it'd take, and that there's no where to have a seat. Points for filling my brain with useful knowledge to say on my tours, though!
After hours of walking, it was time for dinner at Chivo Taqueria:
Oh, what can I say about this new slice of heaven that just opened on Gay Street? Nothing more than their tacos are AMAZING, and they have a well stocked tequila selection, if that's your thing. On the left is the Party Fowl taco, in the middle in the Clusterduck (which was my personal favorite) and on the right is Frying Nemo. My husband also got three of a different kind (of course he started eating before I could snap a picture) and all of his were equally beautiful and delicious. My mom, who used to live in Mexico and spends half the year now living in California, said this was the closest to authentic tasting Mexican food she's ever had anywhere else. Props to Chivo Taqueria.
While we were waiting for our bowling reservation we had put in hours earlier to get closer to being ready, we walked through Downtown Grill and Brewery to see if any of our "downtown friends" were hanging around and socializing also. We wasted some time chatting with some other Knoxvillians and enjoyed the people watching, but then....
Maple Hall Bowling Alley Time:
After waiting about 3 hours from when we physically (yes, they do NOT take reservations over the phone, unless you're booking one of their private party rooms), put our names down to bowl, about 10 pm, we headed underground. I have walked down here many times since getting things situated and done for my food tours, and I was so excited to finally bowl down here. The great part about this "bowling experience," so they call it, is that you don't pay by the game, but by the hour. I love this idea, and it'd be even more worth it if it was just a husband and wife date night thing, where two of you can bowl a game fairly quickly. However, on this evening, there was six of us partaking, so we literally got through exactly two games in two hours ( a game an hour). They have a James Beard nominated chef running the kitchen, and quite a selection of drinks and cocktails. I can't wait to come back here again, mainly to beat my husband as I always do.
And with that, the day of the East Tennessee History Fair was over! Hubby and I felt exhausted (probably because we were literally downtown for 14 hours) and were sore in places I didn't even know had muscles TO get sore! But all in all, it was well worthwhile, and we'll most definitely be back next year!
Don't forget, East TN Tours premier Chef's Table tours are ON SALE for every Tuesday and Saturday left in August, so head over HERE to read about it and book now, before our Grand Opening Special is over!!