5 Can’t Miss Fall Festivals in West Tennessee
It’s about this time each year that the temperature dips (if only for a weekend) and I get all giddy to talk up my favorite fall festivals.
Last year, I recommended you follow the arts-and-crafts circuit. All my staples are imminent – plan for Tiptonville’s Reelfoot Arts & Crafts Festival (Oct. 4-6) and Memphis’ Pink Palace Crafts Fair (Oct. 11-13) or River Arts Fest (Oct. 25-27).
But I uncovered some fresh ideas for you this fall because, really, who can get enough of being outside right now?!
1. McNairy County Broomcorn Festival, Sept. 21 at Selmer City Park Two hours east of Memphis, McNairy County gives off an artisanal, old-time vibe. Experience it during this Saturday’s Broomcorn Festival, an 18-year tradition mixing folk art and music. Artisan demos begin at 9 a.m. (think blacksmithing, quilting, pottery- and stained glass-making); live music begins at 10 a.m. The festival continues until well after 4 p.m. with concerts from West Tennessee ensembles (listen up for the Music Highway Band and the Hatchie Bottom Boys). For souvenirs, shop anything from preserves to carvings to brooms and drumsticks made by local artisans like Jack Martin, who learned his craft from his great- grandfather. For more information, contact the McNairy County Chamber of Commerce at 731-645-6360.
2. Tina Turner Heritage Days, Sept. 27-28 at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center (Brownsville) I made the mistake of calling Nutbush, Tennessee a “town” once. It’s more of a community, the locals corrected me, with a church and a country store where you can have breakfast or lunch. It’s also the birthplace of one Anna Mae Bullock (you know her as Tina Turner), and if you stop by the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in nearby Brownsville, they’ll direct you to the community and a meal at the country store. (Turner’s birthplace is no longer standing, but her childhood school, Flagg Grove, has been relocated to the Heritage Center.)
Make a weekend of celebrating the Queen of Rock ’n Roll later this month as the Heritage Center hosts its second annual Tina Turner Heritage Days. Friday night, attend the opening of the Tina Poster Collection and a screening of the documentary Muskogee to Nutbush: In Search of an American Music Icon – Tina Turner. Live music begins at 7:30 p.m. that evening. Saturday, join guided tours of Brownsville, Nutbush and Henning (home to the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center); paint your version of Turner’s 1988 European Tour Album cover; sample and purchase stews brewing in the Old Family Stew Cook-off; and rock to live music all day long, culminating in a 7 p.m. concert by Turner tribute artist Dorothy Cole. Check this link for the full schedule and ticketing information.
3. Memphis Air Show, Sept. 27-29 at Millington Regional Jetport Attending this one is akin to standing on the set of an action movie: Get to the first-ever Night Airshow on Friday (4-10 p.m.): seven aerobatic acts followed by a pyrotechnic blowout featuring a 1,000-foot wall of fire. Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the spectacle continues courtesy of some of the baddest names in aerobatics – Franklin’s Flying Circus; Mike Goulian; Matt Younkin; aviation artist/stuntwoman/wingwalker Teresa Stokes; the Snowbirds Demonstration Team and Shockwave (Guinness World Records’ fastest jet truck at 376 mph). On the ground, tour aircraft; squeal on carnival rides; bounce on inflatables; play laser tag or zip around in high-performance go-carts. Various ticket packages are available here, but note that children enrolled in grades K-5 in surrounding Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi counties get free admission with one paying adult.
4. Repair Days Weekend, Oct. 3-6 at The Metal Museum (Memphis) If you’ve never visited The Metal Museum (which is, neat to know, the ONLY institution in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to fine metalwork), time your trip with one of the museum’s popular events. Repair Days is a good bet with a Saturday Family Fun Day and a Saturday evening opening/gallery talk on the new Master Metalsmith exhibition (plus the museum’s annual art auction). As its title implies, the weekend’s also ideal for restoring your beloved metal pieces – metalsmiths from across the country will provide free estimates and any soldering, sharpening or dent-removing you need. (They’ll also re-tin copper cookware and repair garden furniture and statuary, and your repair receipt buys you free museum admission during the event.) Not into heavy metal? Come for the views – the Metal Museum’s lawn, anchored by ancient trees, provides my favorite Mississippi River overlook in Memphis.
5. Bluff City Oktoberfest, Oct. 4-5 along Riverside Drive (Memphis) How closely does this Southern-style Oktoberfest mirror the Bavarian tradition? Well, there will be beer – lots of it – a heady notion considering the all-out craft-brew explosion Memphis is currently experiencing. Festival admission, which includes live music from acts like hard-driving Devil Train (Friday evening) and perennial-faves the Bluff City Backsliders (Saturday at 1 p.m.) is free, though charitable contributions/canned good donations won’t be turned down. You can also expect food trucks, kids’ activities and local artisans. But back to the beer: Saturday’s tasting – open to the first 3,000 ticket-holders ($28 in advance; $35 the day of) – flows with unlimited samples from 80-plus regional and national craft brewers between 2 and 6 p.m.
So…where will I see you this month and next? Did I mention your favorite fall festival in West Tennessee? If not, tell me which event you love the most and why in the comments section below.