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Rocky Mount branches out into new eras of history with its first Timeline Festival

Hannah Swayze • Updated Jun 2, 2018 at 11:38 PM

Normally, a trip to the Rocky Mount Historic Site is a step back in time to the Cobb Family home in the year 1791.

This year, the site’s first Timeline Festival added some new steps.

Sam Wegner, executive director of the Rocky Mount Museum, said the site’s staff wanted to try something new this year; that something new turned out to be a weekend-long timeline festival.

Timeline festivals are held at historic sites from time to time to highlight years not always represented in their usual programming.

“The idea is that you’re looking at a broad series of programmed presentations and events that look at a broad timeline,” Wegner said. “We have focused very much on the late eighteenth century, but what we want to do — and it’s going to evolve — is to start bringing in people who look at history in Northeast Tennessee from as far back as possible all the way up to present day.”

The day’s activities include music, lectures, re-enactments, children’s games and more.

One of the historical groups taking part was the Overmountain Victory Trail Association. With volunteers set up in tents along the lawn, visitors could talk to re-enactors and learn about military history and what life was like from the Revolutionary War all the way to World War II.

In one tent, volunteers described the difference between a musket and a rifle. In another, Tom Vaughan, treasurer of the Rocky Mount Chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, displayed items soldiers would carry with them during the Revolutionary War.

Vaughan said his goal Saturday was to help people learn about the history that happened right in their backyards.

The festival’s programming also includes a schedule of authors, musicians, lecturers and other experts sharing their knowledge.

Among that list is Capt. William A. Coleman, an author who will give a presentation about his book, “The Role of Black Americans in the Military,” at 1 p.m., and the Old Field Shapenote Singers who will perform at various times between 2 and 5 p.m. Most performances and lectures will take place in the Overmountain Museum at the site.

Other programming that continues throughout both days are performances by the Johnson City Bluegrass Band, storytellers, demonstrations by the Bristol Forger Blacksmiths, craft demonstrations and more.

The Timeline Festival is the first of many that will take place at the historic site, and Wegner hopes to see it grow.

“Ideally we would see more reenacting groups from more historical periods ... more in the way of music and performances of a broad range that talk about life in the past. In that sense, the world is our oyster,” said Wegner.

Native American culture is something Wegner said he’d like to see represented next year — and hopefully extend the timeline back around 1,000 years. He wants it to become one large “history festival,” not limited to a time period or even a specific place.

“With (Rocky Mount) being the first capital of what became the state of Tennessee, we think of it as the seat of history in the entire region, so we want to just allow people to really get a good look at all kinds of different things like how people lived and played and sang and loved and did all sorts of stuff,” said Wegner.

The Timeline Festival will continue Sunday at noon at the Rocky Mount State Historic Site at 200 Hyder Hill Road in Piney Flats. Admission is $10 and Rocky Mount Historical Association members receive a $3 discount. For more information or to see a full schedule, visit http://www.rockymountmuseum.com/.

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