Appalachian Bear Fest

Lucy Rose George ( left) and Chris Long perform Saturday during 2017’s Appalachian Bear Fest. The event returns to Townsend on June 1.

Of all the challenges that threaten Mother Nature in these modern times, the greatest seems to be the result of human ignorance and intervention. As a result, environmentalists make it their mission to protect and preserve local wildlife and its natural habitats.

Appalachian Bear Rescue does its part by treating injured animals, rehabilitating them for release back into the wild and educating the public about the need to help save East Tennessee’s wildlife resources.

To those ends, the organization will present its fourth annual Appalachian Bear Fest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at the ABR Education Center, located on Painted Trillum Way in Townsend. The free event coincides with “International Black Bear Day” and offers live music, petting zoos, food, kids games and lessons in black bear education from local experts.

In addition, several local artists will be there to sell their work. An author’s book signing will take place at the nearby All Good Things Garden Center from 1-3 p.m. In addition, Zoo Knoxville will bring some of its reptiles for what’s been termed a “Happening Herpetology Class.” Pre-registration for the latter is available at the website (

Lisa Philippen, business and events director for ABR, is overseeing the celebration and said the event was initiated soon after she was hired.

“The day we picked just happened to fall on International Black Bear Day,” Philippen said. “The Appalachian Bear Fest and our Bearly 5K Run/Walk both started the same year and have turned into annual events that we really look forward to. It’s been a great pleasure seeing the event grow, and seeing how many people we can reach to educate them about how to live and act in an area that has a sizable black bear population.”

She added that ABR is especially grateful for the participation of other bear experts, including those from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tremont, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the National Parks Conservation Association, among others.

Philippen said the event’s main purpose continues to focus on teaching people how to respect the bears’ domain to ensure that both bears and humans coexist safely.

“Most bears that ABR receives are due to human contact in one way or the other,” she said. “We try to educate the public at this event about how to correctly stash your trash, how to react when you come across a black bear and what steps to take to prevent human interaction with the bears.”

Still, Philippen said her greatest joy comes from seeing children getting involved. “It’s nice to find them asking the right questions, paying attention and walking away with better knowledge on how to live with black bears.”

As in years past, this year’s entertainment lineup also contributes to the cause. Music will be provided by dulcimer player Mike Clemmer, Jared Hard and Chris Long, The Good Thymes Ceilidh Band and Pistol Creek Catch of the Day.

“Most of the artists have shown ABR great support at different events over the years,” Philippen said. “We’ve added The Good Thymes Ceilidh Band for the first time this year, and we’re very excited for them to come out and support the event.”

Edward Harper, a member of Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, said his group was pleased to participate again this year.

“Pistol Creek has been a longtime friend of the Appalachian Bear Rescue,” he said. “The ABR are genuinely passionate about their mission and are making a real and tangible ecological difference. In our small way, we are pleased to support them.”

As always then, the music and the mission are intertwined.

“Educating the public is a big part of what we do,” Philippen said. “What better way to do that than with a fun festival?”

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