Outdoor Festivals Heat Up Tennessee’s Summer

Don’t wear a white shirt to the Famous Tomato Wars. Splat!  Splat!

A tomato-hurling free-for-all pits team against team at the Grainger County Tomato Festival. Rotten tomatoes sail through the air at 40 mph with messy, messy results.

Friendly competition livens up this fun-loving event that showcases Grainger County’s most famous product—its distinctively delicious tomato. This year the Great Tomato Wars begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 28, and resume at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 29, in Rutledge.

A street dance at Rutledge Middle School on Friday, July 27, starts the festival. Mater Madness 5K Run, art show, children’s activities, beauty pageant and musical stage shows featuring the Grainger County Opry Performers make this one of the best of many festivals in East Tennessee this time of year.

Battle combat of a different kind will rage in Oak Ridge. A World War II Combat Re-enactment, one of the largest in the South, will turn a peaceful city park into a war zone on Saturday, June 16, during the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge. The city was hush-hush as home to the classified government installation that led in the development of the atom bomb in the 1940s. But, plenty of experts, re-enactors and historic exhibits will let you in on the secret at the festival.

Arts and crafts show, children’s activities and entertainment begin Friday, June 15. The evening concert will feature A1A, the original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band. Special event on Saturday include tours at the ORNL Graphite Reactor and the American Museum of Science and Energy as well as train excursions departing from the Appalachia Railway Museum. Entertainment in the evening includes a performance by Southern rock band 38 Special.

Festival-goers seeking peace —not war—will find it at the Rhododendron Gardens of Roan Mountain near Elizabethton. The Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, set for June 16-17, celebrates the glorious beauty of the Catawba rhododendron. Thickets of pink and lavender blossoms sweep across the bald of the 6,285-foot-high mountain. The trail to the gardens can be accessed at Carver’s Gap, a short drive from Roan Mountain State Park.

Mountain music, food vendors, farm life demonstrations, and dozens of craft booths at the state park will round out the festival.

Festivals large and small fill the calendar as summer gets under way. Here are a few more:

  • June 1-3, Blue Plum Art & Music Festival, Johnson City
  • June 7-10, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Manchester
  • June 8-16, Riverbend Festival, Chattanooga
  • July 6-7, Fiddler’s Jamboree and Crafts Festival, Smithville
  • July 13-21, Fun Fest, Kingsport


Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My story...Read on

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