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Six Music Festivals to Check Out in the Tennessee River Valley

February 15, 2019 Visit USA No Comments Email Email

The Tennessee River Valley features a variety of activities for nature lovers and music lovers, and when paired together, visitors are treated to one incredible musical adventure getaway. The Tennessee River Valley has rounded up a list of popular music festivals located nearby to some of the best outdoor adventures the United States has to offer.

“There is no shortage of music festivals to enjoy in the Tennessee River Valley. After spending part of the day exploring nature, treat your ears to some joyful sounds from one of many music festivals held in the region,” said Julie Graham, spokesperson for the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council. “Live concert events of every musical genre are scheduled throughout the year with something for every musical taste.”

Dailey and Vincent Landfest in the Mountains and on the Lake

A stellar artist lineup has been announced for the three-day festival, LandFest In The Mountains and On The Lake, set for September 12-14, 2019, at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee, Ga. In addition to Grand Ole Opry Stars and Multi-GRAMMY® nominees Dailey and Vincent, talent includes Josh Turner, The Oak Ridge Boys, the Bellamy Brothers, Flatt Lonesome, Malpass Brothers, Terry Baucom and The Dukes of Drive, Primitive Quartet and Chuck Wagon Gang. The music portion of the festival is held inside the air-conditioned 2,900 seat Anderson Music Hall at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, and the venue also boasts sprawling grounds with two playgrounds, a boat ramp, two tennis courts, playing courts, paved and shaded picnic areas and nature walking trails along beautiful Lake Chatuge.

A popular attraction in the Lake Chatuge area is High Shoals Falls in the High Shoals Falls-Chattahoochee National Forest scenic area. This natural beauty is a succession of five waterfalls with an estimated total vertical drop of 300 feet. The High Shoals Trail, 1.2 miles in length, follows along High Shoals Creek to observation decks beside two of the five streams cascading in the High Shoals Scenic Area. The hike is moderate in difficulty and a perfect length for “part-time” hikers.

Big Ears Festival

At the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., enjoy four days and nights of music featuring more than 100 performances in churches, grand historic theaters, art museum auditoriums, outdoor spaces and rock clubs. In addition to the concerts in these unique settings, festivalgoers can take part in discussions, interactive workshops, installations, film screenings, surprise collaborations and unexpected artistic collisions. These are typically free and open to the public. At Big Ears 2019, set for March 21-24, some 20 concerts featuring legendary artists such as The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Meredith Monk, Carla Bley and Jack DeJohnette and a new generation of torch-bearing talents like Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Avishai Cohen, and Shai Maestro are slated to perform.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to arrive early or stay an extra day to check out the Ijams Nature Center, part of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural and historic preservation initiative incorporating 1,000-forested acres along downtown’s south waterfront. Ijams Nature Center features an array of exhibits, a museum store, over 10 miles of trails to hike, run and mountain bike, a quarry to fish, and the Ijams Crag offers 12 bolted routes for beginner to expert rock climbers.

Scopes Festival

Bluegrass music lovers with an interest in history should plan a visit to Dayton, Tenn. July 19-20, 2019, for the Scopes Festival, an annual event Rhea County puts on to celebrate arguably the most significant event in the county’s history, the infamous Scopes Trial that took place in the Rhea County Courthouse in July of 1925. At the center of the annual event is “Front Page News,” the Scopes Trial play presented in the same room where the 1925 trial was held. The play with music features dialogue from the trial transcript and historic accounts of events leading up to the trial.

Considered “The World’s Most Famous Trial,” the Scopes Trial was the 1925 prosecution of science teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school, which a recent bill had made illegal. The trial was viewed as an opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the bill, to publicly advocate for the legitimacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution, and to enhance the profile of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The two-day event includes several performances of the play, craft vendors and demonstrations, a classic car cruise-in and a bluegrass competition where bluegrass players come from all over to show their talent. Over $5,000 is given away during the outdoor competition. Admission is free for spectators.

After enjoying a history lesson and some bluegrass music, head north to the Laurel Snow State Natural Area, a 2,259-acre natural area loaded with waterfalls, two trails, scenic creeks, steep gorges, geologic features, a small stand of virgin timber and a wide variety of plants. The site is named after two scenic waterfalls, Laurel Falls (80 feet) and Snow Falls (35 feet), and features two prominent overlooks, Buzzard Point and Bryan Overlook (also known as Raven Point). The trails eventually climb to the top of the falls and have a round trip distance of about 10.5 miles.

Gospelfest at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch

Gospelfest, a smorgasbord of southern gospel and country music artists, along with a talent search where artists compete to win a recording package, a sing-a-long and craft vendors, takes place at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. This year’s event is set for Sept. 6-8, and along with great music to experience, Loretta Lynn’s Ranch has thousands of acres to explore and has one of the largest, full service RV parks in Tennessee. Additional activities to enjoy include horseback riding, canoeing, historic museums and cabin rentals.

Irish Day Celebration

Everyone is Irish during Irish Day Celebration, held annually in Erin, Tenn. The town was settled by Irish immigrants in the 1850s and since the early sixties, the community has come together to celebrate its heritage. The family-friendly event is always held the third Saturday in March (Mar. 16, 2019) and offers a parade, carnival, demolition derby, live music, food galore and arts and crafts. The Irish Day Celebration is listed as one of the Top 10 St. Patrick’s Day events in the United States.

The small Middle Tennessee city of Erin is also home to the beautiful Betsy Ligon Park and Walking Trail. The attraction features a scenic, two-mile walking trail along the old railroad tracks and creek in downtown Erin. While walking along the tree-lined trail, visitors can view many of the town’s historic sites and explore colorful train cars situated along the old L&N railway bed that once ran behind Erin’s Town Square. A boxcar and a caboose have been restored and are also on display.

W.C. Handy Music Festival

Each year in July, the city of Florence (Ala.) and the Shoals area pay tribute to the “Father of the Blues” and Florence-native W.C. Handy with a ten day family-friendly festival. Over 200 activities and musical events are planned for the event set for July 19-28, with activities taking place each day and night during the ten-day festival. Activities include a street strut and parade, songwriter showcases, a car and truck show, a three-state bike ride, and great jazz and Blues music featuring popular local performers can be heard throughout the Shoals at local eateries, malls, parks and other establishments.

An approximate 45-minute drive south takes visitors to Dismals Canyon, an 85-acre quiet and unspoiled oasis. Designated a National Natural Landmark, Dismals Canyon was originally occupied nearly 10,000 years ago by native tribes as learned from artifacts found scattered among bluff shelters, grottos and other sanctuaries. Today, visitors are treated to a 1.5-mile hiking trail on the canyon floor. The moderate hike follows the stream through boulders, two waterfalls, natural bridges and a rich diversity of native plant life. Points of interest along the trail include Rainbow Falls, Grotto, Weeping Bluff, Temple Cave, Fat Man’s Misery, Champion Tree and Secret Falls. At night, the canyon lights up with tiny bioluminescent creatures called Dismalites. These glowworms require a select habitat to survive and are unique to only a few places on Earth. They are considered close cousins of the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand.

For more information on music festivals in the Tennessee River Valley, visit

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