A! Magazine for the Arts

Old-time music festival held in Mountain City on Labor Day weekend

August 29, 2022

Just about as far northeast in Tennessee as you can get, you’ll find a county that is half Cherokee National Forest and half Watauga Lake, where people still gather to play music on their front porches. Nestled within those hills, lies Mountain City and each year a celebration takes place honoring the iconic old-time mountain music style that shaped country music. The three-day festival spans Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2-4.

“I wandered again to my home in the mountains...” the opening line of the iconic song, “Rank Stranger,” is the theme of this year’s celebration.

The fun begins Friday evening with Buskin’ on Main Street. This event brings the small town to life with music, friends and plenty of good eating. The Long Journey Home Art Show and Quilt Show are always a big hit. Then, “Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson,” a short film by Appalachian Memory Keepers is shown outdoors at dusk.

On Saturday, the Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour begins at the Old Mill music park at 1 p.m. with the music of Clarence “Tom” Ashley performed by Kenny Price and Jerry Moses. Then at 2:30 p.m., the JAM Band as well as the Long Journey Home House Band share the stage for the unveiling of the Fiddlin’ Fred Price Memorial Sculpture at Johnson County Center for the Arts. This life size bronze sculpture by Val Lyle is the latest addition to Mountain City’s downtown Mural Mile, a collection of nine murals that honor the stories and songs of this unique mountain community.

Saturday’s tour concludes at the Fred Price Homeplace, nestled high in the mountains. Beginning at 4 p.m., The Piney Woods Boys perform musical selections from the album “Old-Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s,” Doc Watson’s first album, now on the National Recording Registry. Tour maps may be picked up at the Center for the Arts and other local businesses.

The festivities end Sunday with a Sunday Singing at Heritage Hall Theatre from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Several local musicians who carry on the deep traditions of mountain gospel perform.

To learn more, visit longjourneyhome.net.