Polk Salad Festival back this weekend

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By Cindy Simpson

The Tennessee Polk Salad Festival was first started by David Webb with a country-fair atmosphere that celebrated the simplest of poor-man’s country food, the polk salad.

After a yearlong hiatus, the festival has been picked up by the Roane County Arts Council, which is expanding on the original theme to incorporate a celebration of Appalachian foods and culture with other arts and activities.

The festival will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 14 at Harriman’s David Webb Riverside Park.

“It is very artistic,” noted Becky Brunton, one of the organizers. “It is very cultural, but it is fun. It is just a fun family day.”

Admission is free to the festival that will feature a variety of entertainment, artisan demonstrations and children’s activities.

Fifty vendors have committed so far.

“A lot of them will be demonstrating in their booth space,” Brunton said.

A blacksmith and demonstrations such as chainsaw carving, pine needle basket weaving, duct tape creations, loom weaving, sun printing, pots thrown on the pottery wheel, creating wooden pens, decorative craft painting and metal working are planned.

It’s also a chance for Arts Council members to show off their work.

Photographer Wayne Setzer is among the members who will be selling his work.

He specializes in photographs of natural and rural landscapes with his 4X5 Wisner Technical Field camera, which is said to be similar to one used by famed photographer Ansel Adams.

Beaten Not Broken Metal Works will also be showcasing jewelry. Also in attendance will be Adobe Rose Works Pottery, Kat Moore Hand-Loomed Textiles, Rachel Nelson Art, BoxerKnob Woodworks, Dandelion Soap Co. and Owl Tree Designs.

An array of performances will be at the gazebo, including puppeteer Maurice Lowery, folk musicians The Uprising, gospel duo Ben Jam, contemporary Christian musicians Oasis and Ashley Krohn/Rick Metcalf, country artist Tony Hutson and “kid’s lite” rock group Jude’s Band.

Featured dancers will be from Dare2Dance Academy Cloggers, Academy of Dance Arts, the Tellico Tappers and Three Rivers Ramblers square dancers.

The East Tennessee Renaissance Festival is sponsoring a number of efforts to give attendees a taste of what that upcoming festival may be like.

Three different styles of sword play will be demonstrated.

An area for information about the Renaissance festival will also include performances and information booths. They are also preparing a man-pulled cart called a Cabriolet.

Rides in the cart will benefit the Princess Theatre.

“We want to let people know what a Renaissance Festival is,” Brunton said. “Most people of this region are of Scotch Irish heritage. That is our ancestors. It is our history. It is not exotic. It is us.”

The Renaissance and Middle Ages “show what our ancestors were like before they came to America,” Brunton added.

A Renaissance queen will hold court at this year’s Polk Salad Festival.

Traditional Southern foods, such as fried green tomatoes, fried okra, cornbread, desserts and pinto beans, will be available.

Polk salad with all the fixings will be sold as a fundraiser for Rockwood American Legion Auxiliary 50 to benefit veterans programs.

There are spelling variations, but the festival has long used the same one as the Elvis Presley song, “Polk Salad Annie.”

“The Polk is the cultural nod to our food,” Brunton said. “It is part of our heritage.”

The Arts Council is also endeavoring to enhance interest in the arts through hands-on opportunities for children, including a musical area, leaf printing, spatter paint, polk ink, wood medallion designing and even a bubble area and bean bag toss.

“Next year, I want a photo booth,” Brunton said. “I just think it would be awesome.

It is hoped the event can eventually expand to three days.

“A three-day festival can bring 20,000 people into this county,” Brunton said.

An opening ceremony begins at 9 a.m. with a flag raising. A ceremony honoring Webb will be at noon. Closing ceremonies are at 5 p.m.

More about the festival is available on the Tennessee Polk Salad Festival’s Facebook page. Information on vendors and a schedule of performances on the gazebo stage are at www.artscouncilrc.com/polk-salad-festival.