Grainger County Tomato Festival 2017

Get your veg on at the Grainger County Tomato Festival 2017!

Grainger County Tomato Festival 2017 at 7480 Rutledge Pike, Rutledge, TN is scheduled for Friday July 28 through Sunday July 30, 2017. The festival began in 1992, promotes the delicious and world famous Grainger County Tomatoes, local agricultural goodies, and also spotlights many area artists, craftsmen, musicians, dancers, authors and more. The venue has evolved to include many special events and is considered to be one of the largest FREE festivals in East Tennessee! Parade magazine rated it as one of the top ten festivals in the USA. The good times are always the last weekend in July so mark your calendars for this year and next.

So many delicious vegetables and so little time!

This is a family friendly event and attendees are reminded that no smoking or alcohol is allowed on the grounds. It is usually pretty warm this time of year, so dress appropriately. Watering stations and mist tents will be available to keep you and your furry friends cool at this pet friendly event.

Be sure and come hungry to the Tomato Fest. There are so many treats that choosing which to sample may prove daunting. HeySmokies loves the home made ice cream, and pinto beans and cornbread but no visit to the Grainger County Tomato Festival would be complete without a big serving of fried green tomatoes, our personal favorite. Don’t forget to take home a basket of red (or green, if you prefer) delicious tomatoes.

Catch the live entertainment on the main stage beginning Saturday morning:

9:00 The Mason Dixon Boys

10:15  Mary Kutter

11:30  Sarah Helper

1:00   Snake Holler

3:30 N2O

4:00 The Mc Kameys with opening band Tribute Quartet

5:00 Reggie Coleman

The Charlie Daniels Band takes the stage Saturday night!

7:00  The world famous Charlie Daniels Band performs on the Rutledge Middle School football field.

Sunday July 30th

12:00 Keith Lambert

1:15 Homer Hart

2:30 Brandon Fulson

3:45 Shelby Duke

Choose a side and prepare for battle at the World Famous Tomato Wars! Participants can grab “ammo” from bushels and bushels of tomatoes, take aim and win the day! The wars usually begin at 10:00 a.m Saturday and Sunday but times are yet to be announced so stay tuned to for the latest information.

Insider tip: If you participate in the tomato wars bring a fresh change of clothes!



Carolina Jessamine: Vine of the South

Carlonia Jessamine is a lovely addition to any landscape. Photo credit – Garden of Tomorrow.

Carolina Jessamine: Vine of the South. Carolina Jessamine or the Vine of the South is commonly found in the Smoky Mountain region and is a great plant for the local landscape.                            

What is it?  Seen spilling over fences and arbors and trailing along woodland margins, the Carolina jessamine, state flower of South Carolina, may justifiably be called the vine of the South, for it is the most prominent ornamental vining plant cultivated in the Southeast that is also a native plant. It brightens gardens and landscapes with its intensely yellow trumpet-shaped flowers from late spring through the summer.  More widespread than its Asian transplant rivals, wisteria and clematis, it flourishes southward from Virginia to Florida and westward to east Texas, loving this region’s summer heat and humidity as well as its mild winters.  It is known by a variety of names—Carolina jasmine, evening trumpet flower, and woodbine—but the scientific name, gelsemium sempervirens, captures one of its most distinguishing and useful features:  its leaves are evergreen (i.e. sempervirens).  The gelsemium designation, however, indicates much less favorable trait:  the plant is toxic to human beings.

Where does it grow?  This plant is hardy in USDA zones 7-9 in the United States, but its range extends well into Central America.  It consists of strong twining bronze-colored stems that can reach upward or outward 20 feet or more with a spread of up to 8 feet.  Its deep green leaves are thin, lustrous, spear-shaped, and evergreen, although both the leaves and stems darken in color during the winter.  In the late spring the vine produces medium-sized trumpet –shaped flowers, rather like those of Asiatic lilies, which are intensely yellow and very fragrant.  Blooming continues until mid-summer when the plant begins to conserve energy to survive the drier, hotter months.  (Growers have also produced white, crimson, and pink flowered varieties.)  The plant’s strong deep root system adapts well to the heavy Southern clay soil, allowing the plant to tolerate the region’s hot, dry summers.  It also tolerates some shade but prefers full sun, except along the roots.

What is it used for?  Carolina jessamine is typically used as a climbing vine to decorate trellises, arbors, fences, and walls, but can serve as a hedge as well if supported.  Where no vertical support is available, it can also become an aggressive groundcover on sunny hillsides.  For gardeners who wish to feature native or historical plants, the Carolina jessamine is the perfect choice for a vertical highlight just as it has been in Southern gardens since the colonial period.

How to cultivate it.  Carolina jessamine can be grown readily from stem cuttings or seeds taken from existing plants.  Once the yellow flowers are spent, seed pods form in their place and gradually open to expose the seeds.  The pods can then be clipped from the vine and air-dried for several days to ensure the moisture is gone before storage.  (For storage, a small pouch made of aluminum foil works well. Once the seeds are enclosed, the pouch can then be placed in a plastic zip bag, the bag then labelled and stored.)  In late February the seeds can be started indoors in peat pots kept is a sunny spot and frequently watered before transplanting to the garden once the soil is thoroughly warmed, typically in May.  Care should be taken to shade and mulch the roots, however, as jessamine, like clematis, prefers its roots to be relatively cool.  Finally, the plant can be pruned throughout the growing season in order to improve its appearance and maintain its conformance to arbors, trellises, and pergolas.

Toxicity:  ALL PARTS OF CAROLINA JESSAMINE ARE TOXIC TO HUMAN BEINGS because it contains a substance known as gelsemine—a complex alkaloid related to strychnine.  The sap can cause minor skin irritation, so gardeners working with this plant should always wear gloves and long sleeves.  More importantly, children can easily mistake jessamine’s trumpet-like flowers for honeysuckle and poison themselves by ingesting the flowers or nectar.  This circumstance requires immediate medical care.  Butterflies and hummingbirds, however, are readily attracted to the plant and suffer no harm.

Unfortunately, the Carolina Jessamine’s toxicity is not limited to human beings.  It also appears to be toxic for the non-native honeybee, while not so for the bumblebee and other native osmia bees, which have learned to avoid it.  Honeybees ingesting the vine’s alkaloid nectar become disoriented and eventually die.  While Carolina jessamine is not a contributor to honeybee colony collapse, it is not a good ideal to locate bee hives near to it.

HeySmokies would like to welcome our new contributing writer Carl Parsons. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

July 4, 2017 Free Fishing Day In North Carolina!

Catch and release your inner angler!

July 4, 2017 Free Fishing Day In North Carolina! This coming Tuesday will be free fishing day throughout North Carolina. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. till 12:59 p.m. there will be no fishing license or additional trout privilege license required in any public body of water. Any age may fish the public waters for free on July 4 but remember all other fishing regulations do apply.

The state of North Carolina does it’s part to make this day memorable by stocking many public water ways. Cold mountain streams are stocked with brown, rainbow and brook trout as well as walleye and muskellunge. Warmer waters are stocked with American shad, catfish, striped bass, sunfish and large

Grab your pole and meet HeySmokies at the fishing hole!

mouth bass. To give you a fighting chance the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission provides an interactive map on their website to show where to get your “Fish On!”

This special day of patriotism and fishing should be experienced by everyone and is great for a family outing, Remember that kids 15 years old and younger may fish year round in North Carolina with no fishing license but don’t get caught with a full string if you are 16 and up or there will be more than fish in the frying pan! The officials kinda frown on that! Have fun everyone and we hope you land a whopper! If you can’t make it to the lake be sure and discover our other 4th of July suggestions at HeySmokies 4th of July Fun!

Smoky Mountain July 4th Fun!

Celebrate the 4th of July the Smoky Mountain Way. Photo credit Ariel Skelley/CORBIS.

Smoky Mountain July 4th Fun! Join us in the Smokies for a family-friendly, mind-boggling day of patriotic fun on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, as we celebrate America’s birthday-mountain-style!

Gatlinburg hosts the First Independence Day Parade in the Nation. More than 80,000 spectators are expected to be on hand to enjoy the city’s 42nd annual parade which begins at midnight and was named by National Geographic Magazine as one of the Top 10 parades to see in the United States!

The mile-long parade route begins at traffic light #1A on East Parkway and continues to traffic light #10. Plan to spend the night at one of the area’s fine hotels or camp at one of the Park’s beautiful campgrounds and enjoy the exciting River Regatta on River Road which begins at noon. Pack folding chairs and blankets to enjoy the spectacular fireworks show that begins at 10 p.m. Registration for the Regatta begins at 10:00 a.m. at Christ in the Smokies and prizes will be awarded to the winners.

Pigeon Forge has the patriotic spirit too at Patriot Park. It will be a red, white and blue day for your family starting at noon with the FREE Kid’s Carnival featuring food and fun!

Starting at 1:30 the games and free entertainment begin including standing room only performances by Departure (Journey tribute band) who “don’t stop believin’.”  Thompson Square, an American country music duo composed of husband and wife Keifer and Shawna Thompson, is the headliner for the event. Their popular singles include “If I did not have you” and “Are you gonna kiss me or not?”

Plan to come early and stay late to enjoy a dazzling fireworks show that starts at 9:30 p.m. and is sure to put “stars in your eyes.”

The entire event is free to the public so plan to spend the entire day. Please leave your coolers and umbrellas at home but remember to bring your blankets and lawn chairs!

On the southern side of the Smokies this July but can’t be there on the 4th ? The 42nd Annual 4th of July Powwow Fireworks show in Cherokee, NC. is the place to be!  The event is at the Acquoni Expo Center (1501 Acquoni Road, Cherokee, NC 28719) from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m on Saturday July 1, 2017. Admission is by ticket only so call 800-438-6492 today!

The Tweetsie Railroad is a great one tank trip!  Tweetsie Railroad is planning a bang-up event to celebrate America’s birthday and the theme park’s 60th birthday on July 4th.

Tweetsie Railroad, North Carolina’s first theme park, will treat visitors to a spectacular fireworks show on July 4th when more than 200 large-caliber pyrotechnic shells light up the heavens above the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The park, located on U.S. Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock, will offer a day of adventure; the most famous of which is a ride on a train pulled by one of Tweetsie Railroads iconic steam locomotives. When Tweetsie opened on July 4, 1957 it featured one-mile train trip to a picnic area. Today it is an entire theme park that offers visitors from far and near a chance to enjoy the wild-west themed attractions. A VIP Fourth of July experience will include premium viewing area, and an optional chicken and barbecue buffet at the Hacienda. VIP wristbands, available at the ticket office, are on a first come basis for $20 for adults and $15 for children, ages 3-12. Kids ages two and under get in free. Parking is available during the celebration for $10 and those holding Golden Rail Season Passes park free. In the event of inclement weather, the fireworks will be held on July 5th. Daytime admission is $45 for adults and $30 for children. For more information, visit or call 877-898-3874.


The Annual Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival


The Annual Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival will be held Saturday-Sunday, June 17-18 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Roan Mountain State Park, located on Highway 143 in Roan Mountain, TN. This two-day event celebrates the blooming of hundreds of spectacular Alpine Catawba Rhododendron which tower more than 20-ft. high along a trail that loops through the main garden. Along the way wooden platform decks offers spectacular views of surrounding mountains, and nearby is the site of the old Cloudland Hotel, once a popular destination for people seeking a respite from the long hot days of summer. The USFS charges a small fee to enter the garden area.

This event, celebrated continually for the past 60 years and once held at the top of Roan Mountain, was moved in recent years to the lower elevation of Roan Mountain State Park. In addition to the fabulous Rhododendron display, visitors can also sample a variety of traditional southern foods, check out the offerings of regional artisans and sit back and enjoy authentic Appalachian music provided by The Roan Mountain Hill toppers, a well-known old-time string band. This family band has performed at such venues as the Smithsonian Museum’s American Folk Life Festival, the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, TN, and the Country Music hall of Fame in Nashville.
You might want to pack some swim gear and take advantage of the pool, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. –7 pm. on Sunday. A $5 fee is charged per person and a $3 fee is charged for cabin and camping guests. Lifeguards are on duty and a small wading pool provides a safe and fun spot for younger visitors.

Thirty rental cabins and tent and RV camping are provided for at the 107-site Roan Mountain State Park campground, which encompasses more that 2,000 acres and is located at the base of the 6,285 foot Roan Mountain. Cabins have fully equipped kitchens, a full bath, wood-burning stoves and gas/electric heart. Campsites are equipped with a grill and picnic table. A bathhouse offering hot showers is located nearby.Wildlife is abundant in the area and The Friends of Roan Mountain have compiled a checklist for the flora and fauna in the park along with amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles, which is available by visiting Friends of Roan Mountain.


Interstate 26 to Exit 31 (Elizabethton), U.S Route 321 to Elizabethton and then U.S. Highway 19-E at Elizabethton then south into Roan Mountain, TN.
U.S. 19 splits into U.S. 19E and U.S. 19W in Bluff City, TN., north of Elizabethton.The routes rejoin in rural Yancey County, N.C. While U.S. 19W heads

Finding Roan Mountain is half the fun! Be sure and take the scenic route, your honey will thank you! Photo credit

directly for Interstate 26 at exits 35 and 36 in Johnson, City Tennessee, U.S. 19E takes a 70 mile path through the heart of the Unaka Mountains. U.S. 19W splits from I-26 just before the Tennessee-North Carolina border and meanders through the mountains of Yancey County, N.C.

Alternate U.S. 19W is co-signed with Interstate 26 for much of its length in Tennessee. U.S. 19E in Tennessee runs concurrently with State Route 37. Tennessee State Route 143 intersects U.S.-19E in the Roan Mountain community and connects the area with both the state park and Carvers Gap, a low point in the ridgeline of Roan Mountain. As you ascend you exit Roan Mountain State Park and enter Cherokee National Forest. A parking lot at the gap provides access to the Appalachian Trail that crosses a series of grassy balds offering spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. This 10-mile stretch of balds is said by many hikers to be the most beautiful section of the entire Appalachian Trail. Beyond the balds, the AT climbs to 6,285 foot Roan High Knob, the highest point of the Roan Mountain Ridge.


FISHING: Anglers will enjoy the Doe River which is cool enough year-round to provide a habitat for native brook trout, along with rainbow and brown trout which are stocked regularly. Bring a fly rod and test your skills against the abundant, but elusive, trout or fish for Bass, Walleye and Catfish on nearby Wautauga River.

HIKING AND BIKING: You are sure to find the perfect spot to hike or bike on some of the 12 miles of hiking trails and more than three miles of mountain bike trails which range from easy to strenuous.

Even the smallest endeavor yields great rewards on Roan Mountain. Take a break from the car and hit the trail!

Blue 2 Trail- a multi-use, easy trail runs for 1.35 miles. The trail climbs and descends steeply in short sections and features narrow switchback turns.

Moonshiners Run Trail is an easy to moderate multi-use trail that runs 1.85 miles along the Doe River. Although wide and level in sections, the trail narrows to a single track in the last mile.

Chestnut Ridge Trail is easily the most challenging in the park. The trail climbs steeply through deciduous forest and rhododendron thickets, gaining elevation on its way to the Miller Farmstead on Strawberry Mountain. The reward for this strenuous activity is the stunning view of the Roan Highlands from an overlook platform. CAUTION: BLACK BEARS ARE KNOWN TO FREQUENT THIS REMOTE AREA AND HIKERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO HIKE IN PAIRS AND MAKE NOISE ALONG THE TRAIL.

Cloudland Trail, a moderate half-mile hike is self-guided with the help of informational brochures that are available at the visitor’s center. The trail winds along the Doe River and continues over a couple of small ridges.

Forest Road Trail is the longest trail in the park at 2.75 miles. Classified as easy to difficult the trail connects the visitor center and the campground as well as a link to several other trails. The Southern section is rated easy, while further north if changes to moderately difficult. The section from the Turkey Trot Junction to Hwy 143 is very steep, but early spring hikers will be rewarded by the sight of a carpeting of spring flowers along the trail. The hike features rhododendron tunnels, a bridge crossing over the Doe River and amazing views of Roan Mountain during the winter months.

Fred Behrend Trail is a moderate to difficult 2.35 mild hike that loops around the entire campground and leads along the Doe River before entering lush thickets of rhododendron. Expect to see lots of mountain hollows and experience stream crossings.

Peg Leg Mine Trail is a .35 miles leads to the ruins of an iron ore mine once operated in the late 1800s. Entry to the mine is prohibited due to safety precautions.

Raven Rock Overlook Trail is a one-mile difficult trail ascending quickly to the crest of Heaton Ridge and is one of the most popular trails in the park. It offers amazing views of the Roan Valley and is one of the best spots to watch a Roan Mountain Sunset.

Riverside Trail runs for a half-mile and provides access from the cabin area to picnic shelter 2 via a boardwalk installed over a restored wetland.
Turkey Trot Trail runs for only a quarter-mile yet is categorized as moderate-strenuous. It begins at the cabin overflow parking lot and ends at the top of the ridge.

Extra nearby fun:

The Miller Farmstead is a great place to learn about the grit of our mountain pioneers!

Step back in time at The Miller Farmstead, located just before entering Roan Mountain State Park. Drive up a winding road and discover the hardiness and self-sufficiency of early Appalachian settlers. The white-frame Miller farmhouse, built in 1908 by Nathaniel Miller, is preserved as it appeared then, along with a barn, corn crib, hog pen, root cellar, smoke house, chicken house, spring house and the ever-necessary outhouse, as a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of these early settlers who farmed the ridges of the southern Appalachians. On Saturdays, during the summer months, local musicians, storytellers and folks demonstrating traditional farm skills share their talents. The farmhouse location is picture perfect during October’s fiery autumn colors, and beginning in November the house is festooned with greenery and other natural decorations for the annul Old time Yule at the Farmstead when hot apple cider and snacks are offered and live music echoes throughout the house. The farmstead is open Memorial Day to Labor Day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday and on weekends in October. No admission is charged for this site which is on the National Register of Historic Places.