The beloved festival, which offers a glimpse of 1850s rural America, has drawn huge crowds to Exchange Place for more than 30 years. Hundreds of families walked the grounds of the living history farm. They did crafts from rag dolls to cucumber boats, took hay rides, petted farm animals and learned about the daily life of Northeast Tennessee’s colonial residents.
“It’s the most people we ever had,” said Joy Moore, member of Exchange Place’s steering committee and lead organizer of Farm Fest.
Moore’s favorite part of Farm Fest is the people, those who attend and those who make it happen.
“We do it with a lot of help from Exchange Place volunteers, we pull in our friends. … It’s just a real family, community event,” Moore said.
Through its many years, Farm Fest has evolved from a small festival to Exchange Place’s biggest event. Moore sees plenty of new and repeat visitors, as well as volunteers who come back year after year and add their own customs and traditions.
“One of our volunteers used to make boats out of cucumbers that were too big to eat, just carve them out and sail them down the creek,” Moore said. “That just became part of Farm Fest.”
With bushels of cucumbers and pots and pots of flowers, children made and decorated their own boats before sailing them in a metal tub. Other favorite old-timey crafts and games included rag dolls, jump rope, feather pen writing and sack racing. Kids and adults alike had a great time watching blacksmithing demonstrations, taking hay rides and listening to the folksy instrumental sounds of local musicians.
“We have people of all ages,” Moore said as a family of volunteers drove young goats to a livestock area including sheep and colorful chickens. “Some people come back year after year.”
Exchange Place offers an opportunity for visitors to slow down and visit another century through yearly festivals like Farm Fest. The farm is also open on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Volunteers make Farm Fest and Exchange Place possible by staffing weekly events, organizing festivals and creating the area’s fun, community-based atmosphere.
“You couldn’t have an event like this without the volunteers,” said Chad Corell, president of the event’s 30-year sponsor Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home. “That’s a great part of Kingsport in general … people step up.”