A true Celebration of heritage farming and heirloom gardening, the Spring Garden Fair at the Exchange Place Living History Farm is making its long-awaited return after a two-year, COVID-enforced hiatus.
Long a favorite of area Gardeners – novices and experts Alike – the 36th edition will be open to the public on Saturday, April 30, from 10 am until 5 pm and Sunday, May 1, from noon until 5 pm at the farmstead, located at 4812 Orebank Road in Kingsport.
The oldest garden fair in the region, the Spring Garden Fair will feature thousands of plants for sale, focusing 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 about plant selection and care, Master Gardeners and other gardening experts will be available throughout the weekend to answer questions and make recommendations. In addition, folk and yard artisans will also be found throughout the grounds with their unique plant and garden-related arts and crafts, while other vendors will offer sales of chicks, bird feeders, handmade soaps, 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 farm’s Cotswold sheep will be getting their hair cut in the ritual shearing of the sheep. TJ DeWitt will perform this necessary and fun chore on Saturday between 10 am and noon, then again between 1 and 3 pm If you miss it on Saturday, he will complete the task on Sunday between 1 and 3 pm
The Overmountain Weavers Guild will then take that wool and continue its long “Sheep to Shawl” tradition of carding (cleaning, separating and straightening) the wool, spinning it into yarn, and Weaving that yarn into scarves and, perhaps, other beautiful and wearable items. All are invited to help with the carding.
The Overmountain Weavers Guild will also be prominently featured in the Burow Museum, with an exhibit on the fiber traditions of the Appalachian region. A highlight will be antique weaving patterns from the mid-19th century that were discovered by Exchange Place’s own Suzanne Burow.
Also showcased will be two antique Appalachian rocker beater looms, rarely seen nowadays, that have recently been restored and will be in use as members of the Guild weave curtains that will, when completed, be hung in the historic Preston House.
A special feature at this year’s Spring Garden Fair will be the appearance of Jennifer Hanlon. A multimedia artist with a focus on fiber, the Johnson City Resident discovered needle felting a couple of years ago and will be offering a workshop on Sunday between 1 and 4 pm Needle felting is a Therapeutic craft that involves repeatedly stabbing a special type of needle into a piece of wool to stiffen and shape it into the desired shape.
The cost for this workshop is $ 65, which includes all supplies and admission to the festival. A minimum of three people are needed to register (adults only, please, as the dry-felting needles are sharp). You can register at www.hanlonscreativecorner.com. Payment will be collected at the workshop.
While the hearth kitchen restoration continues, the Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society will be creating the kinds of foods popular in the mid-19th century in the Cook’s Cabin and, it is hoped, also utilizing the bread oven.
The Junior Apprentices will be in a variety of places Performing chores and offering Insights about how life was lived on an Antebellum Northeast Tennessee farm. They will also be hosting a Tennessee Dancing Gourd “spin off” competition near the Cook’s Cabin, while their Old-Time Band will be performing during a Maypole Dance. This ceremony originated in ancient times and celebrated the fruitfulness associated with spring. It was revived in the 19th century, and everyone is invited to welcome the season on Sunday at 2 p.m.
A wide variety of hands-on children’s activities will be found all around the grounds, and young’uns will certainly want to say hello to the resident animals including Delilah (the cow), Jenny (the donkey) and Chance (the horse), plus Exchange Place’s numerous sheep.
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 get hungry or thirsty, baked goods, lunch, drinks and snacks (including funnel cakes and kettle corn) will be available.
Admission is $ 5 for anyone over the age of 12 and free for everyone else. All proceeds from the event help with the Restoration and upkeep of 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 reusing. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own plant carriers and to bring used nursery pots for recycling / reusing.
Exchange Place is a non-profit, Volunteer-run living history farm, educational facility and regional attraction that seeks to Preserve, protect, interpret and manage the history, heritage and artifacts pertaining to mid-19th century farm life in Northeast Tennessee. For more information call 423-288-6071 or visit www.exchangeplace.info.