Winter got you down? Townsend has the cure for the cold weather blues Jan. 26-29 with its third annual Smoky Mountain Snowdown: A Winter Heritage Festival. Food, music, heritage classes and special speakers with an intimate knowledge of Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian region as a whole will be available to bring history and heritage alive in a full slate of events to appeal to the entire family.

Christi Silliman, general manager at Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend, is chairing the Snowdown planning committee. She said, “It’s a three-day weekend of the history, the heritage, the culture and the influence of the Appalachians and Great Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove.”

An opening reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at Mtn Trax, 7717 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway.

“It’s open to the public. We’ll have light refreshments and we have several speakers, local political representatives. It’s a nice little opening reception with lots of information about the programs that are going to be available,” Silliman said.

Most of the events during Snowdown are free of charge, but some of the classes and food events will have an admission charge. Silliman said local charities will benefit from the proceeds. (tncms-asset)4d2974ed-71c0-54c4-b865-490dcb6da9db(/tncms-asset)

Appalachian heritage

Appalachian history and heritage are the focus of activities planned by the Cades Cove Preservation Association and Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

The Cades Cove Preservation Association, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Cades Cove history and heritage, will host speakers on the history of Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian region at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. All speaking events are free of charge.

Ken Garland, board member and immediate past president of CCPA, said, “We have a pretty good slate of the speakers,” including people who will talk about the history of Cades Cove and the region, a scientist who will talk about air quality in the Smokies, a retired newspaper reporter, Fred Brown, who has written extensively about the Cove, and a former chaplain of the Appalachian Trail. CCPA members will talk about teachers in Cades Cove, how the Civil War affected the region and a history of one of the prominent families in the Cove. A local musician, Earl Layhue, will perform his songs about Cades Cove and the Smokies. “This year, Sam Venable will be the celebrity speaker. He will be there at 5:30 on Saturday.”

Don Alexander, director of marketing at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, said, “Every year, we have hundreds of people come to these presentations throughout the day on Saturday, and we have some presentations on Friday, as well. So this has been a very well-attended event over the years. We’re just the host site. Cades Cove Preservation Association has put together the roster of presenters and has done just a magnificent job.”

CCPA’s annual Precious Memories event, a homecoming of former Cades Cove residents, will be held from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Big Valley Resort. The round-table discussion will have former Cades Cove residents and descendants of Cove residents sharing their memories and answering questions. There is no charge to attend.

“We just pass the mic around and let people identify themselves and tell anything they want to say about living in the Cove,” Garland said. “We’ll have light refreshments for that.”


Cast Iron Dinner on the Grounds, presented by the Blount County Fire Department and Cades Cove Preservation Association, will be held beginning at noon, Jan. 28, at Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Cost is $10 for a meal of pinto beans, turnip greens, corn bread and all the fixings. Reservations are not required; pay at the door. All proceeds benefit Coats for Our Community.

Garland said CCPA will also have a Cast Iron Breakfast. “We started having on Sunday morning, a Cast Iron Breakfast,” he said. “Johnny Leatherwood and other firefighters from the cooking team of the Blount County Fire Department will cook breakfast for us at 10 o’clock Sunday morning at Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.”

Cost is $6 per person, and reservations and payment are required by Jan. 25 by calling Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center at 865-448-0044. Payment may be made by Jan. 25 at either the Cades Cove Museum, 1004 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville, or at the Heritage Center in Townsend. Note on the check that it’s for the breakfast. All proceeds benefit the Blount County Fire Department’s Coats for our Community program. A country church service will be held at 11 a.m. following the breakfast in the GSMHC auditorium with traditional gospel hymns led by Teresa Estes and a message by Elder Ronnie Whitehead.

Dancing Bear Lodge is hosting several food events. “We’ll have a cast-iron cooking lunch on Friday,” Silliman said.”And we’re doing a meet-and-greet with the author of ‘Victuals,’ Ronni Lundy, with a chef-inspired meal on Saturday.”

The cast-iron cooking demonstration and three-course luncheon with cocktail pairings will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at Dancing Bear. Cost is $75 per person. For reservations and information, call Dancing Bear at 800-369-0111 ext. 2 or go online to

“An Evening with Ronni Lundy,” author of “Victuals — An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes,” begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. Dancing Bear’s Executive Chef Shelley Cooper will welcome the award-winning author along with guest chefs Travis Milton and Anna Bogle. All three chefs are featured in Lundy’s award-winning book, which received many accolades in 2016. The author and chefs will delight guests with their stories, histories and also introduce guests to 21st century Appalachian fare. Dinner will be presented at chef attended stations with cocktails and wine pairings, all included in the ticket price of $149 per person. Advance reservations are required by calling Dancing Bear at 800-369-0111 ext. 2 or by going online to A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to the Great Smoky Mountain Association to support the National Park after the devastating wildfires of November 2016.

“Apple Valley Cafe is having a Charity Chili Challenge,” Silliman said. “This is something new this year. We have local, Blount County businesses that are competing.” All proceeds will be donated to the winning contestant’s charity of choice. “Right now, our participating nonprofits are the Bike Elf, Appalachian Bear Rescue and the Townsend Elementary School,” Silliman said. “I think Susan B. Komen and Mane Support are going to have an entry.”

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $12 for adults, $5 for children 10 and under. Call 865-448-1232 for information. (tncms-asset)13ca5a3e-de59-11e6-a214-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

Joint venture

Silliman said much more is included in the event.

“There is also the Townsend Artisan Guild, which is participating and doing art classes,” including brusho watercolor, textured crochet, encaustic painting, abstract wildflower painting, make your own clay wildflower tile, mixed media felt and needle felting.

“The dulcimer shop (Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop) is doing dulcimer classes, and Little River Outfitters is doing free fly-tying classes,” she said.

Music and dancing will also be featured.

“The Tremont Lodge is doing a hoedown on Friday and a Songwriters in the Round on Saturday,” Silliman said. The hoedown is a fun evening of dancing, held from 7 to 9 p.m., cost by donation. Proceeds benefit Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund.

A Songwriters Workshop will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Tremont Lodge and Resort, 7726 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway.. Award-winning songwriters and recording artists, Marc-Alan Barnette, Karen E. Reynolds and Scott Southworth will provide a paneled workshop for an afternoon of song critiques, and comprehensive, effective information on improving your writing skills, radio promotion, the music business for touring artists and navigating Nashville. The last portion of the workshop will include an open Q&A with the panelists. Seating is limited, and cost is $30 per person.

Songwriters in the Round will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, also at Tremont Lodge and Resort. More details will be announced.

The winter heritage festival was originally started by the Cades Cove Preservation Association and the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center several years ago. Snowdown is an outgrowth of that, with additional sponsors including Blount Partnership and the Townsend Walland Business Alliance, a group of small business owners in the area, seeing the value of bringing visitors to the small town outside of peak tourism months.

Silliman said the mission statement of TWBA is that members “work together to promote a positive business climate in east Blount County while improving the prosperity of the community, preserving our heritage and culture and enhancing our quality of life while safeguarding the environment.”

“I’d say the majority of businesses in Townsend and Walland are members, and for anyone that is not, we are open for membership,” Silliman said. “It’s a nice little group. It’s most of the hoteliers, the artists, the food and beverage industry here in Townsend.”

For complete information on all events, including food, additional music, art and other events, with locations, tickets and costs, where applicable, visit Silliman said, “Snowdown is the perfect excuse to come out of hibernation, shake off those winter blues, and celebrate the history and heritage of our beautiful area — and support our little mountain community, too.”

Life columnist

Linda Braden Albert worked as a feature writer and editor at The Daily Times. She is now the editor of Horizon Magazine and a columnist.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.