The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Organizers hope to include artists, quilters, old-time demonstrators, woodworkers, barrel turners, fishing fly-tyers a tractor show, food vendors and more. Live bluegrass music is slated for Saturday; gospel music will be performed Sunday.
Among the events scheduled for the event is the dedication of the Polk County News and Newspaper Book Shop’s Quilt Square, which marks their participation in the Appalachian Quilt Trail.
The Appalachian Quilt Trail offers a chance to experience the beauty of Tennessee and Appalachia in a new and unique way, by following a path of wooden quilt blocks that dot the landscape along historic byways and offer a great excuse for drivers to take the scenic route.
Cheryl Maxwell, owner of the Polk County News and Newspaper Book Shop, said she hopes the quilt square will encourage visitors to drive through Benton, and hopefully stop along the way.
“Benton is a neat little town,” Maxwell said. “There may not be a whole lot of businesses here, but there’s no reason it can’t be a place people want to visit.”
Maxwell said she hopes to have local quilters participate in Benton Arts and Heritage Days in order to show off the rich quilting history of the area, but also wants to show off artistry of all shapes and sizes.
“There really isn’t a place in Benton where people can show off their works, and I hope this festival will become a place where locals can get the attention they deserve,” she said.
Benton Mayor Jerry Stephens said there was a time when there were events on the courthouse lawn and in the downtown area, and he wanted to bring something back to the city.
“There are festivals going on all around us, and we should offer the local people something to do,” Stephens said. Stephens is working with The Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association for a music grant and is also applying for an Arts Build Communities grant in order to put on the festival.
Because the festival is slated for Halloween weekend, Stephens said he would like area churches to participate in Sunday’s festivities.
“A lot of churches have Trunk or Treat (a church Halloween alternative) events on Halloween, and it might be a good place for them all to come together, listen to gospel music and provide a safe place for children to celebrate without having to go door-to-door for candy,” Stephens said.
Organizers hope to include elementary school children by inviting them to decorate scarecrows or create other Halloween decorations that can be used to decorate the downtown area. Benton area businesses are encouraged to offer candy for trick-or-treaters during the event.
Selena Moses, art instructor at Chilhowee Middle School, has said she plans to use the event to showcase artwork from her students.
Melvin Bell with Benton IGA is planning a tractor show in the field beside the store during the event. He said tractors spanning several generations will be shown. “We have done a smaller tractor show here before,” Bell said. “But this time they will be bringing a lot more.”
John Pippenger said he looks to have boats, fishing fly-tying and other hunting and fishing demonstrations.
Anyone with a family or special handmade quilt to display is encouraged to contact the Polk County News. A photography exhibit by Jim Caldwell and artwork from Marie Spaeder-Haas will be displayed inside the office, and Spaeder-Haas will be doing a demonstration of her work Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.
For more information, or to reserve your space to participate in the event, please contact Jerry Stephens at Benton City Hall 338-5733; Cheryl Maxwell at 423-338-2818; Adrian at the Polk County Chamber of Commerce 423-338-5040; Melvin Bell at Benton IGA 423-338-9233 or John Pippenger at 423-338-0187.
Food vendors will be charged $25 to participate in the event. Demonstration presenters will not be charged to participate. Artists or other vendors who would like to sell their works will be charged $10. Tables will not be provided.