13th - 14th  June 2008

We left our campsite in North Carolina bright and early and continued along our favourite route 441 through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountain National Park.    After Harvey had huffed and puffed his way up to over 5000 feet on the winding road, we took a break at the Tennessee-North Carolina State Line to admire the view.

We wound our way down into Tennessee, passing through the resort town of Gatlinburg.   Next we drove straight through Pigeon Forge, which was largely dominated by Dollywood, Dolly Parton's Theme park and a huge number of neighbouring  family attractions.    The next similar town of Sevierville only inspired a stop when we spotted our favourite store and stopped to restock also acquiring a "gazebo" (tent-style insect net) to add to our camping inventory.

Weird upside-down building in fun town!

Cove Lake

Our next camping spot was selected pretty much at random based on the route we anticipated.     We entered Cove Lake Tennessee State Park, selected our camp site and entertained our new neighbours trying to assemble the new gazebo, which allowed us to enjoy sitting outside without becoming mosquito dinner.    The park was very busy, almost no vacant campsites remained by the end of the day and we soon learned why.    It seemed the friendly folks in Tennessee had thoughtfully laid on a festival of bluegrass music, storytelling, local fare and crafts that weekend, which would certainly give us a good taste of Tennessee during our brief visit.   We were thrilled.   Even better, entry to the festival was free!

We amused ourselves the rest of that first day at Cove Lake, exploring the great bike trails laid out in the park.

Next day we were off to festival.    We discovered that it was held to celebrate the life of local musician and artist Howard Armstrong, with the guest of honour being his flamboyant widow Barbara.    The festival was named the "Louie Bluie" festival, which was his nickname during his lifetime.

Of course, before we'd have the energy to take in some culture, we needed to sample the local fare part of the festival.    Phil made a beeline for the home-made ice-cream stall.    We filled our week's fat quota straight away, starting our meal with wonderful homemade ice-cream!

Later we decided that maybe we hadn't eaten a totally balanced meal and set off in search of something more healthy.    We circled the stalls of local fare with their selection of barbecued meat, fried potatoes, cotton candy (candy floss) and highly sugared lemonade and weren't inspired.    Finally we came across a stall offering genuine Caribbean Vegetarian Cuisine and tucked into a delicious broccoli coleslaw with tofu and mango stir fry.    Not exactly a taste of Tennesse and we'd never seen broccoli, or come to think of it, been offered any vegetarian food in the Caribbean but it was delicious and we felt sure our arteries would be grateful!    

Quality Testing the Home-Made Ice Cream

Duly fortified we set out to sample the local culture.   We enjoyed some Bluegrass Music bands and local storytellers before checking out the arts and crafts.     It seemed the folks in Tennessee were certainly fond of gourd art! 

Local Bluegrass, storytelling and hoards of gourd art.

We thought maybe we should find out a little about Howard Armstrong, after all the festival was being held in his honour.    We were in luck.   Knoxville's Carpetbag Theater were presenting excerpts from their musical play by Linda Parris-Bailey telling the story of "Louie Bluie's" life.     

If we were to stay the course to the end of the festival, we decided, in totally British style, that we should head home for a tea break.    This was easy as we lived right there in the park!     

We returned to the festival in time to catch the headlining bands, Hokums Heroes, real foot-tapping bluegrass and Hector Quirko band, Blues favourites in the State.

As the festival was being held in a State Park, it was a strictly teetotal affair and whilst enjoying the evening music, we sampled the local lemonade.    The whole affair was rounded off with a very impressive firework display, to finish our party in Tennessee.

It'll take more than this lemonade to get me dancing!

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