A true celebration of heritage farming and heirloom gardening, the Spring Garden Fair at the Exchange Place Living History Farm makes its long-awaited return after a two-year hiatus imposed by COVID.
A longtime favorite of gardeners in the region, novices and connoisseurs alike, the 36th edition will be open to the public on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 1 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the farm located at 4812, chemin Orebank in Kingsport.
The oldest garden fair in the region, the Spring Garden Fair will be selling thousands of plants, with a focus on heritage and natives, from old favorites to rare and hard-to-find varieties. Growers will offer perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, with an emphasis on herbs, natives and heirloom plants.
Sharing their knowledge of plant selection and care, master gardeners and other gardening experts will be available throughout the weekend to answer questions and make recommendations. Additionally, folk and garden artisans will also be present throughout the estate with their unique plant and garden related arts and crafts, while other vendors will offer sales of chicks, bird feeders, handmade soaps handmade, pottery, tree chimes and more, including a wide variety of food choices.
True to its mission, Exchange Place will offer slices of 19th century life in almost every corner. The Cotswold sheep on the farm will have their hair cut during the ritual sheep shearing. TJ DeWitt will perform this necessary and fun chore on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and then again between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. If you miss it on Saturday, it will complete the task on Sunday between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
The Overmountain Weavers Guild will then take this wool and continue its long “sheep to shawl” tradition of carding (cleaning, separating and straightening) the wool, spinning it and weaving it into scarves and, perhaps, be, other beautiful and portable objects. elements. All are welcome to help with the carding.
The Overmountain Weavers Guild will also be highlighted at the Burow Museum, with an exhibit on the fiber traditions of the Appalachian region. A highlight will be the mid-19th century antique weaving patterns that were discovered by Suzanne Burow of Exchange Place.
Also on display will be two old Appalachian rocking looms, rarely seen these days, which have recently been restored and will be used as guild members weave curtains which, when completed, will hang in historic Preston House.
Jennifer Hanlon’s appearance will be a special feature of this year’s Spring Garden Fair. A multimedia fiber artist, the Johnson City resident discovered needle felting a few years ago and will be offering a workshop on Sundays between 1 and 4 p.m. a piece of wool to stiffen it and give it the desired shape.
The cost for this workshop is $65, which includes all supplies and festival admission. A minimum of three people are required to register (adults only, please, as dry felting needles are sharp). You can register on www.hanlonscreativecorner.com. Payment will be collected at the workshop.
While restoration of the hearth kitchen continues, Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society will create the types of foods popular in the mid-19th century in the cook’s cabin and hopefully make use of the bread oven as well.
Junior apprentices will be in a variety of locations performing tasks and offering information about life on a pre-war farm in Northeast Tennessee. They’ll also be hosting a Tennessee Dancing Gourd “spin-off” competition near the cook’s cabin, while their Old-Time Band will perform at a Maypole dance. This ceremony originated in antiquity and celebrated the fertility associated with spring. It was revived in the 19th century, and everyone is invited to welcome the season on Sundays at 2 p.m.
A wide variety of hands-on children’s activities will be found all around the grounds, and youngsters are sure to want to say hello to the resident animals, including Delilah (the cow), Jenny (the donkey) and Chance (the horse), as well than the many sheep of Exchange Place.
As always, music will fill the air during the Spring Garden Fair, as an abundance of local talent is scheduled to perform throughout the weekend.
If you are hungry or thirsty, baked goods, lunch, drinks and snacks (including funnel cakes and hot corn) will be available.
Admission is $5 for anyone over 12 and free for everyone else. All proceeds from the event help restore and maintain the site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Spring Garden Fair strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible with recycling, composting and reuse. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own plant holders and bring in used nursery pots for recycling/reuse.
Exchange Place is a non-profit, volunteer-run living history farm, educational institution and regional attraction that seeks to preserve, protect, interpret and manage the history, heritage and artifacts relating to the mid-19th century farm life in northeast Tennessee. For more information, call 423-288-6071 or visit www.exchangeplace.info.