Big South Fork Annual Spring Planting and Music Festival

Panoramic view over river winding through hills covered by bare trees.
Big South Fork River and Gorge

NPS Photo

Located on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is home to a wild and scenic waterway and surrounding tablelands with a rich cultural history. American Indians and European American settlers inhabited the floodplains and stream corridors, relying on the land to provide materials for food and clothing.

Landscape and Lifeways

test test
House and shed at the Lora Blevins farmstead

NPS Photo

The Annual Spring Planting and Music Festival will be held within the Lora Blevins farmstead cultural landscape, the Oscar Blevins farmstead cultural landscape, and the Bandy Creek Visitor Center of Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area. The day-long festival celebrates the skills and traditions that were necessary to sustain local families throughout the year on the Cumberland Plateau, demonstrating ways of life common to the region in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Lora Blevins farmstead is a typical Cumberland farmstead of the Big South Fork region. The fairly intact plateau farm includes remnant fields and fence lines; remnant orchards; hedgerows; and several structures, including a log barn, log corn crib, log house, privy, and animal pen, primarily constructed in the late 1920s.
Early settlers of the region were dependent upon the local environment and resources for their livelihoods. Residents practiced subsistence farming, involving the raising of livestock and the cultivation of several crops. Horses and mules were commonly used for field work, while pigs and cattle were raised for food. Chickens were kept for meat and eggs, geese were raised for feathers, sheep for wool, and bees for honey and candle wax. Crops included corn, wheat, rye, flax, and occasionally cotton.
Two teams of horses plow through a dirt field in opposite directions.
Teams of draft horses plowing a field at the Lora Blevins farmstead.

NPS Photo

Kitchen gardens yielded vegetables, beans, potatoes, and cabbage, which could be preserved beyond the growing season either by drying, pickling, or storing in a root cellar. Other local lifeways included hunting, hide tanning to make leather goods, collecting wild berries and roots, weaving, and constructing buildings and structures from locally sourced materials.
Animal hides are displayed on tables in front of the long wooden porch of a rural cabin
Display of animal hides by a trapper at the 2017 Spring Planting and Music Festival

NPS Photo

A log house with a stone foundation and stone chimney in a rural landscape.
The front and eastern side of the Lora Blevins House with barn in background, 2010.

NPS Photo (in 2016 Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Historic Resource Study)

Local vernacular architectural traditions include the log cabin and dog trot style dwellings. Wood was typically used for wall and roof construction, while stone was used for foundations and chimneys. The wood-frame structures were generally modest in scale and compact in plan, with minimal detailing. Fences were typically split rail, paling, or picket types constructed from rot-resistant oak, black locust, or chestnut. Rocks pulled from areas cleared for farming were used to build stone walls around the perimeters of the fields, or simply collected into centralized piles.
Although the Lora Blevins farmstead was constructed towards the end of the subsistence period, the structures and layout resemble early traditions and practices. By the late nineteenth century, the soil began to decline in fertility. Traditional agricultural practices declined as larger industries moved in, and subsistence farming was supplanted by wage labor. Ultimately, changes in farming practices, mechanization, transportation, and technology, as well as resource depletion and soil erosion, contributed to a change in cultural practices and an outmigration from the region.

Living Traditions

The region’s unique cultural traditions have nonetheless been maintained, and the connection between the landscape and local lifeways survives in the resources at Big South Fork. The annual planting festival celebrates the practices that were necessary for everyday life and the families that relied on small-scale subsistence farming, deriving their needs from the land and local resources.
Farm animals within a fenced area beside a log barn
Animal petting zoo adjacent to the Lora Blevins Farm barn at the Lora Blevins farmstead.

NPS Photo

A team of three horses pulls a man on a plow through the soil of a field.
Team of draft horses plowing a field at the Lora Blevins farmstead.

NPS Photo

The festival will include interpretive talks, vendors, and traditional Cumberland Plateau musical acts throughout the day, playing a range of bluegrass, Appalachian, singer-songwriter, and Americana music.

Past cultural events and demonstrations have included teams of draft horse and mule-drawn plowing, gardening, quilting, wood working, blacksmithing, basket-weaving, hand-spinning, making lye soap, a farm petting zoo for children, and antique farm and tractor equipment displays. In addition to cultural events, the park is partnering with the Knoxville Track Club to host three trail runs along the Oscar Blevins Nature Trail, including a one-mile fun run for kids and four- and seven-mile runs for adults.

Learn More

The Annual Spring Planting and Music Festival happens on April 28, 2018

Plan Your Visit

Sources and More

Last updated: May 21, 2019