Exchange Place Living History Farm Spring Garden Fair
Kingsport, TN – The season of hope and renewal – that’s spring. With the blooming of trees, flowers and plants, we are finally able to shake off the dark yoke of winter in favor of new life and vibrant colors. Exchange Place Living History Farm will joyously usher in the planting season with its annual Spring Garden Fair on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and on Sunday, April 28, from noon until 5 p.m., at the 1850s farmstead located at 4812 Orebank Road in Kingsport.
What was originally a small herb sale is now, in its 35th year, one of the oldest and most anticipated gardening events in our region, with the grounds of the historic site filled with thousands of locally-grown plants – annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and blooming baskets – plus garden-related arts and crafts.
The focus, as always, will be on herbs, native and heirloom plants, including many varieties of heirloom tomatoes and other organically-grown vegetables, starts. But what truly makes this festival unique is the availability of many gardening experts, located throughout the campus and eager to share their knowledge about plant selection and care. They will be joined by a variety of talented artisans who will proudly be displaying, discussing and selling their wares – from wood craftsmen to people who make brooms, birdhouses, wheel-thrown stoneware, corn-shuck dolls, and colorful baskets. Jeri Landers of Hopalong Hollow, an award-winning author, and fiber artist, will be back to share her imaginative collection of whimsy and nostalgia.
As a living history farm, Exchange Place continually offers examples of 19th-century farm life in Northeast Tennessee. The Burow Museum will be exhibiting a selection of quilts associated with the families who lived at Exchange Place or on the Roseland property, along with quilts belonging to site volunteers past and present, including the Exchange Place Quilters, who volunteered for so many years and created so many beautiful pieces. Also found on the Roseland side will be T.J. DeWitt, formerly of Rocky Mount, who will be shearing the sheep on Saturday, April 27, between 11 am and 3 pm. The Overmountain Weavers Guild will then take that wool and continue their long “Sheep to Shawl” tradition of carding (cleaning, separating and straightening) the wool, spinning it into yarn and weaving it into a shawl, scarf or other beautiful apparel. Due to popular demand, the back porch of Roseland will be filled with a Fiber Fair, which will feature textile artisans skilled in spinning, weaving and wool felting; they will offer demonstrations and personal instruction to anyone who might be interested in trying their hand at one of these skills.
The hearth kitchen, located on the historic farm side of Exchange Place, will be filled with wonderful aromas as members of the Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society churn butter and prepare a spring-time meal featuring roast chicken, asparagus, and pound cake. Exchange Place’s Junior Apprentices will be assisting with cooking as well as performing other chores around the farmstead, like chopping wood, tending the animals, and working in the newly-restored historic kitchen garden. In the years just prior to the War Between the States, the services of a blacksmith were an absolute necessity, and Catherine Hendershot will be active all weekend, demonstrating the multi-faceted skills that went into this unique craft.
Kendy Sawyer, from Fries, Virginia, and her team of Kerry and Milking Devon steers who are training to become oxen, have proven to be one of the most popular attractions at Exchange Place festivals over the past few years. Three-year-old Cole and Cannon will once again be out at the Spring Garden Fair, and this year they are being joined by Milking Devons Tug and Titan, brought to us from Asheville, NC by Kyle Israel. Oxen played a major role in forestry, haulage, roadbuilding and land clearing in early Appalachia, and Kendy and Kyle will be happy to introduce these animals to everyone while teaching about the uses of oxen on modern homesteads, and how easily they can be trained.
Underneath and just around the Kingsport Visitor Tent, you will find community groups and representatives from historical and natural sites from our region, educating and informing visitors about their areas of expertise, which often features information regarding summer camps and other happenings. Members of the Southern Appalachian Plant Society (SAPS), and other Master Gardeners, are also scattered throughout site to answer questions and share their knowledge.
There are always tons of activities for children, and this year is no exception – marbles, corncob checkers and darts, whimmy diddles, graces, tops, Jacob’s ladder, quoits and hopscotch. Many of these games can be purchased from the Museum Store (located right next to Roseland). Long-time Exchange Place volunteers Allen and Margaret Calcote began the popular tradition of jump-rope-making almost two decades ago, and that tradition will continue this year. And of course, children of all ages always enjoy meeting our resident animals, including Delilah (our cow), Jenny (our donkey), our horses Chance and Ned, plus our sheep and – depending on mother nature – perhaps some new baby chicks.
The earliest recorded use of a Maypole in America dates back almost 400 years, to 1628. Children will be encouraged to decorate the pole and make floral head crowns for the joyful Maypole dance, which will be held on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm behind the Gaines-Preston House.
Music is hardly confined to the Maypole dance. An abundance of local and regional talent will be performing, including the world premiere of the Junior Apprentices Old-Time Band, who are planning to entertain both days. We are also excited to be welcoming two musicians who are new to us – John Condrone (Saturday) and Chris Long (Sunday).
There is always plenty of food to be found, but you may not realize that some of it has roots that stretch back decades. Kettle corn, for instance, has a history that dates back into the 18th century, and was often a highlight of festivals in the early 1900’s. Other historical munching options include apple stack cake, fresh strawberry shortcake, and soup beans plus cornbread, while goat cheeses, jams, jellies, specialty breads and datil pepper products will all be available to bring home.
The Spring Garden Fair strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible with recycling, composting, and re-using. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own plant carriers and to bring used nursery pots for recycling/reusing.
Admission is $5 for adults and is free for children under the age of 12. Proceeds from the event helps keep our animals fed and with the restoration and upkeep of the site, which is proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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, please call
423-288-6071, or visit our website: www.exchangeplace.info.