The next time you hear someone grumbling that there’s never anything fun to do in Blount County, don’t hesitate to correct them.

Yes, Maryville, Alcoa, Townsend and all the rest of the incorporated communities in Blount may seem like sleepy small towns compared to the big city to the north, but they’re hardly bereft of entertainment opportunities. In fact, the calendar for 2020 is already a crowded one when it comes to fun for the whole family, and that doesn’t even begin to take into account the weekly offerings of live music at places like Barley’s Maryville (which will be changing names this year), Brackins Blues Club and Two Doors Down … bowling at Crest Bowling Lanes or roller skating at the Roll Arena Party Zone ... events at the Blount County Public Library or by the county’s fine arts organizations … or the miles of trails and scenic drives in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It’s perfectly possible, in fact, to pack activities into all 52 weekends of 2020 and never have to leave Blount County to do it. Don’t believe us? Here are some of the 2020 events already on the books:

Friendsville

The fine folks over in the city of Friendsville work hard each year to put together certain events that are open to everyone, inside and outside the city limits. There’s an Easter egg hunt for kids every spring; a Community Market day in the spring and fall, where everyone is invited to set up and sell everything from locally grown produce to locally produced crafts to yard sale items; an annual Homecoming Celebration on the last Saturday of September featuring activities, live music, food and arts and crafts; a “Boo in the City” Halloween event throughout downtown, where streets will be closed and businesses will hand out candy to kids; and an annual Holiday Celebration on the first Saturday in December, which features the annual Christmas parade, vendor activities, an evening celebration and the annual lighting of the tree. All Friendsville events are free to attend; for more information, visit www.friendsville.city.

Clayton Center for the Arts

Over on the Maryville College campus, that bastion of fine arts, cultural events and popular music will shake off its holiday slumber on Jan. 10, when the Primary Players present “The Wizard of Oz.” (See this edition for more information.) Located at 502 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway on the MC campus, the facility will host a number of events through the end of the 2019-20 academic year, including:

• “Bandstand,” a musical about the musical endeavors of World War II veterans, will be staged Jan. 30; tickets are $46.50-$70.50.

• The Tap Pack, which riffs on the Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr. style comedy and music performances of the 1950s, will perform Feb. 6; tickets range from $21.50-$32.50.

• The Grammy-winning Celtic titans in The Chieftains will bring their “Irish Goodbye” farewell tour to town Feb. 14; tickets are $38.50-$60.50.

• The Broadway hit “The Play That Goes Wrong” will be staged March 10; tickets range from $40.50-$60.50.

• Maryville College Theatre will present “Shrek the Musical” on March 27-29; tickets are $15 for adults.

• “The Choir of Man” fringe musical will be staged April 3; tickets are $40.50-$60.50.

In addition, the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers will bring three screenings to the Clayton Center over the next several months, and the next “National Geographic Live” presentation will take place March 6. Add in the annual performances from ensembles of MC’s Division of Fine Arts, and there’s something to do at the Clayton Center on a weekly basis. For more information, visit

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

The Heritage Center, at 123 Cromwell Drive in Townsend, is maintaining a low profile for the winter (except for the Winter Heritage Festival, which takes place Jan. 24 and 25 and features a number of programs, performances and lectures in the center’s auditorium), but come spring, things kick off in earnest. Guitar maestro Bill Mize kicks off the spring concert series May 22, and additional performers on the calendar for the rest of 2020 include Steve Kaufman on May 29, Acoustic Eidolon on June 19, Grizzly Goat on June 26, Angela Easterling and Brandon Turner on July 10, the Driftwood Cowboys on July 17, Pistol Creek Catch of the Day on July 24, the Jerry Butler Band on July 31, the Tennessee Sheiks on Sept. 18 and the Early Morning String Dusters on Sept. 25. Admission to the performances is $10. Other 2020 events on the center’s calendar: The Smoky Mountain Fiber Arts Festival, April 24 and 25; and the Tennessee Pottery Festival on May 9. For more information, visit www.

The Shed Smokehouse and Juke Joint

Scott Maddux and his team at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville, first started holding concert series at The Shed — the covered amphitheater adjacent to the dealership — in the summer of 2005, and they show no signs of slowing down. Two indoor concerts are on the calendar during the winter months, leading up to the April kickoff of the outdoor concert season. Dates, acts and prices include:

• Jan. 11: Chris Hennessee, $15 advance/$20 at the door

• Jan. 18: Ward Davis, $20 advance/$25 at the door

• Feb. 8: Tennessee Jet, $10/$15

• Feb. 22: Cody Canada and The Departed, $20/$25

• March 7: Drop Dead Dangerous and Rebel Railroad, $10/$15

• April 4: Big Gun (AC/DC tribute band), $10/$15

• April 11: All My Rowdy Friends (Hank Jr. tribute band), $10/$15

• April 18: Green River (Creedence Clearwater Revival/John Fogerty tribute band), $10/$15

• April 25: Tuesday’s Gone (Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band), $10/$15

• May 8 and 9, Blackberry Smoke, $40/$45 (May 9 show is sold out)

• July 25, The Steel Woods, $20/$25.

Other dates will be added in the coming weeks, and organizers expect to offer live music every weekend from the April kickoff through the end of September on the outdoor stage. In addition, according to Entertainment Director Josh Formont, starting Jan. 10 is a new concert series — “Funky Monkey Friday,” featuring free live music from local bands every Friday on the indoor stage through April. For more information, visit www.theshedtickets.com.

Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games

The annual celebration of music, food, culture and feats of strength from Scotland returns to the Maryville College campus May 16 and 17, and the bands are already in place. It’s a veritable who’s who of Celtic musicians, as returning favorites Seven Nations and Albannach will perform, along with East Tennessee outfits Wild Blue Yonder, Four Leaf Peat and the Good Thymes Ceilidh Band. The event again takes place on the campus of Maryville College, and tickets will go on sale Feb. 1. (Last year, tickets were $35 for a two-day pass, $20 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.) For more information, visit www.

Summer on Broadway

The smell of sizzling meat, the fizz of freshly poured beer and the sounds of live music once again will fill the air as the annual downtown extravaganza known as Summer on Broadway returns on June 19 and 20. The event debuted in 2014, piggybacking on the longtime success of the Big BBQ Bash, a cooking competition originally started by Leadership Blount. After becoming a Kansas City Barbeque Society-affiliated event, the Bash found a new home in Founders Lot beside the Citizens Bank of Blount County on East Broadway Avenue in Maryville; streets were closed and vendors were invited, and in 2015, the Napa Know How Autofest and Hops in the Hills craft beer festival were added to the list of weekend activities. Today, the event is the work of several organizations, including the Downtown Maryville Association, the city of Maryville, Blount Partnership and a number of individual businesses. For more information, visit www.

Townsend Visitors Center

In the heart of the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” the Townsend Visitors Center, 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, will again host the Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day on May 1-2, and the Townsend Fall Festival and Old Timers Day on Sept. 25 and 26. Other events take place at the center around the year, including regular exhibits of mountain arts and crafts, and for the fourth year in a row, the Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival will take place at the center on Aug. 15. Admission to most events is free, but parking passes are required and range from $10 to $25, depending on the event. For more information, visit www.smokymountains.org.

Wolfstock 2020

Ever since the city of Maryville dropped the curtain on the Foothills Fall Festival in 2014, East Tennesseans have been clamoring for something to take its place that would bring big-name country stars to Blount County. On Memorial Day weekend, the town of Louisville and WCYQ-FM, 100.3 The Wolf, are planning an answer to those pleas. The Wolfstock Music Festival 2020 takes place in downtown Louisville, 3623 Louisville Road, and features a two-day lineup. Lindsay Ell, The Cadillac Three and Chris Janson perform on May 22, and Jackie Lee, Joe Diffie, Ricky Skaggs and Justin Moore perform May 23. Tickets are $85 for a single-day general admission ticket or $150 for a two-day pass (plus $10 per day for a parking pass). For more information, visit www.thewolfstock.com.

And those are just the highlights. Some other Blount County events to put on your calendar for 2020:

• The Tennessee Winter Beer Fest starts at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at The Carriage House, 8310 Highway 73 in Townsend, featuring local brewers offering their crafted beer to benefit New Hope Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center. Tickets are $60.

• The city of Alcoa’s annual FreedomFest celebration will take place at 6 p.m. June 27 at the Alcoa Duck Pond in the Springbrook community, featuring vendors, crafts, live music and fireworks at dark. It’s free to attend.

• The Townsend Grains and Grits Festival of Southern food and spirits returns to the Townsend Visitors Center on

Nov. 7.

And hey, let’s not even get into everything going on north of the river, in Knoxville. Sure, you can seek your entertainment there if you’d like … but you don’t have to leave Blount County in 2020 to have a good time.

Steve Wildsmith was an editor and writer for The Daily Times for nearly 17 years; a recovering addict, he now works in media and marketing for Cornerstone of Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Blount County. Contact him at wildsmithsteve@gmail.com.

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