Late summer brings lots of events at Sycamore Shoals

August may be the time children return to school, but there are still plenty of summertime activities taking place at Sycamore Shoals, from learning early 19th century dancing steps, to participating in an annual butterfly count, to doing a creek critter roundup on the banks of the Watauga River. and so much more.

Butterfly Counting: The butterfly counting takes place this Saturday with the 14th Annual Elizabethton Butterfly Count, sponsored by the park and by the North American Butterfly Association. The count will get started on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the park, when participants meet with naturalist Don Holt. It will be a day-long county, but participants can opt for all or a part of the day. The counters will be located across town. For more information, go to the park’s website at or call 423-543-5808.

Creek critter catchin’ event: Next Wednesday, Aug. 8, starting at 11 a.m. and ending at noon. Participants will join with Ranger Jason Davis for a cool and refreshing walk through the waterways of the Watauga River and discover the different creatures that call it home. Participants should bring footwear they don’t mind getting wet and muddy, but no flip-flops. You may bring your own catchin’ tools if you like. No children younger than 6 can participate. Parents who wish to accompany their children but don’t plan to participate do not need to register. All participants must register at Choose “Upcoming Events” in the left hand menuThe cost for each participant in $5. The program will be cancelled and rescheduled in the event of severe weather. All critters will be released at the end of the program.

Wacky Whimmy Diddles: Thursday, Aug. 9 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. What in the world is a wacky whimmy diddle? Join Ranger Corbin Hayslett in the lower picnic area by the walking trail to make an old-timey toy. Learn the secret ancient language of “hooey” to talk to your newly made whimmy diddle and make it do a special trick. The event requires preregistration at  Choose “Upcoming Events” in the left hand menu. The cost of the event is $5 for adults, everyone 17 and under are admitted free. The event is limited to 12 participants.

Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps: Sycamore Shoals is a state park focusing on history and there are several events scheduled to provide instruction for re-enactors and others interested in how things were done in centuries past. One example is the Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps, which performs at historical events, dedications and parades in the area. The group meets nearly every Saturday to practice and learn new old music. The Junior Corps is open to new members and beginners. Musical experience is welcome but not necessary, just come with a willingness to learn. Junior Corps members have opportunities throughout the year to move into Senior Corps as they progress. The Senior Corps meets from 10 a.m. to noon. The Junior Corps meets from noon to 1 p.m.

Quill pen making and writing class: Another event that provides information for re-enactors and those interested in how things were done in the past is quill pen making and writing class, to be taught on Friday, Aug. 8, starting at 10:30 a.m. The class will be taught by the park museum’s curatorial assistant, Chad Bogart. He will show how to make and write with your very own feather writing pen. You will see how writing instruments of the 18th century penned such famous documents as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Also learn about the different types of ink and paper used in colonial America. All children ages 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult as we will be using sharp tools to make the pens. The accompanying adult is not required to pay the class fee. Program will be held in the Gathering Room of the park Visitor Center. The cost is $5. All supplies will be provided. The class will be limited to 10 students. Pre-registration required at

Wardrobe class: A special class for women re-enactors who want to create their own 18th century wardrobe will be taught in two sessions this month. Creating early 19th century women’s foundation wear – part A will be taught on Saturday, August 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a lunch break from 12:30 to 1 p.m. The class will be taught by Donna Horowitz and will allow students to start their own early 19th century women’s wardrobe with the basic: a bodiced petticoat. Students will work with the instructor, a professional seamstress, to achieve a fitted undergarment based on personal measurements. A private area will be set up to assure privacy on fitting. The cost of the course is $65 and includes the fabric, pattern and thread needed. A limited number of sewing machines will be available for a class use fee of $5 on a first come, first served basis. Students are encouraged to bring their own sewing machine.

Horowitz will teach the second part on Sunday, Aug. 26 from 1-4 p.m., when she teaches 19th century women’s foundation wear – Part B. This class will continue building your early 19th century women’s wardrobe with the finishing pieces: chemisette and back pad. The class will include instruction and examples of how to sew several styles of chemisette, a garmet that adds coverage and warmth to the upper bodice area. Finishing off the look is a back pad to help create the silhouette for the era. The cost of the course is $45 and includes fabric, pattern, polyfill and threat to complete your own chemisette and back pad. A limited number of sewing machines will be available for class usage at a cost of $5 on a first come, first served basis. Students are encouraged to bring their own sewing machines. Beginners and seasoned dancers alike are all welcome to this social event.

Most of the women re-enactors at Sycamore Shoals wear the simple frontier clothing worn by the first generation of settlers in the 1770’s, but with the addition of Sabine Hill, there is now a chance to wear the more elaborate early 19th century wear of the successful Carter County families. An afternoon of early 19th century dance with the Sabine Hill Social Society will take place on Sunday, Aug. 19 from 1-4 p.m. Beginners and seasoned dancers alike are all welcome. The afternoon will include English country dance and early Appalachian dance techniques.

Botanical arts: Another artistic event will be the class in botanical arts, taught by Sara Bowers and members of the oShady Oaks Garden Club on Saturday, Aug. 25 from 9:30 a.m. until noon. There course is free and all materials will be provided. Registration is required. Students will learn to make jewelry with dried plant material. The students will be encouraged to display their creations at the Shady Oaks Flower Show on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7 and 8. Work will be labeled and returned to owners after the flower show. Ribbons will be awarded.