This weekend's East Tennessee History Fair may be the biggest event of its kind to date. Sponsored by the East Tennessee Historical Society and related organizations, it offers the usual book signings, reenactors, artisans, antiques, and home-grown musical entertainment you expect, along with the perhaps unique History Hound Dog Costume Contest, and a big cake for Davy Crockett's 230th birthday. (If he's missing his rifle, it's in a case inside the museum.) All that is in the vicinity of the East Tennessee History Center, at Gay and Clinch, and especially at nearby Krutch Park, starting about 10 a.m.
This year's party offers several unusual features, including a rare showing of Clarence Brown's early film, Smouldering Fires,a 1925 silent classic about a love triangle that breaks more than one taboo. The director grew up in Old North Knoxville, and was an engineering graduate of the University of Tennessee. (He is of course the namesake of UT's theater and theater program.) The film will be showing at the Tennessee Theatre, across the street from most of the fair, early Saturday, along with some Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound screenings related to Knoxville in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the recently released Knoxville Sessions were recorded.
At 4:00 on Saturday, yours truly of the Knoxville History Project will lead a first-ever urban hike, a tour of a couple of long-vanished neighborhoods adjacent to the Old City, Irish Town, which was central to the immigrant community in the second half of the 19th century, and Cripple Creek, a neighborhood long associated with the poor African-American community, along with "Friendly Town," a 15-year experiment in the establishment of a red-light district. Get reservations through the East Tennessee Historical Society (via website below). It's a long walk on a hot day, so bring comfortable shoes, a good hat, and some water.
Sunday offers an only-in-Knoxville sort of opportunity to immerse yourself in active history, with a vintage "base ball" (it's 1860s rules, including the two-word spelling of baseball) double-header in the green back yard of Ramsey House, the unusual 1797 stone house in the Forks of the River area--and it's accessible by a vintage old-time stream-locomotive train ride on the Three Rivers Rambler from University Commons. On the way, you get to see, from a high trestle, the three rivers suggested by the short line's name, the Holston and the French Broad, which flow together to form the Tennessee. The combination of train ride and vintage base ball double header makes a quadruple whammy of a historical event.