Well, that’s almost around the state.
An email promotion directing potential visitors to the department’s website — www.tnvacation.com — suggests such major festivals as Beale Street in Memphis, Rhythm and Blooms in Knoxville, Riverbend in Chattanooga and Bonnaroo in Manchester. The site also promotes some lesser-known festivals as Muddy Roots in Cookeville, Cooper-Young in Memphis and Pilgrimage in Franklin.
Locally, Bristol’s big Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival is on the list.
So the map doesn’t exactly end at Knoxville, but it sure ignores everything else in the Tri-Cities.
Here in Johnson City, Blue Plum and Umoja have brought thousands to our streets for music, arts and culture for decades. When Little Chicago joined the mix in 2016 sandwiched between the older two festivals, it meant a full season of musical fun. Kingsport’s annual FunFest is no small fish, either. Last year, it brought legendary rocker Pat Benatar and her husband, Neil Girardo, to the J. Fred Johnson Stadium stage along with current folk rock stars The Avett Brothers. You can find Fun Fest deep in the state’s site by navigating through an events calendar. You won’t find Johnson City’s music festivals at all.
And while it’s not musical in nature, Jonesborough’s annual Storytelling Festival, an event drawing visitors from around the country and the world, isn’t on the events list, either.
To make matters worse, the state seems to think Bristol is the only city in Northeast Tennessee. The tourism site’s navigation includes a listing of cities divided by regions — West, Middle, East and the Smokies. Bristol is highlighted in the East with Knoxville and Chattanooga.
Last time we checked, Bristol was by far the smallest of the three larger cities in Northeast Tennessee at around 27,000 people. Kingsport has twice that at nearly 54,000, and Johnson City lands in first place with about 67,000.
Sure, Bristol has the speedway, a landmark tourist attraction, but there’s a lot more happening up this way than the bi-annual NASCAR races.
To the site’s credit, if you look hard enough, you can find more of Northeast Tennessee deep in the indexes. The Gray Fossil Site and Rocky Fork State Park, for example, are listed among destinations for spring trips. You’ll also find other stops in our area along the Sunnyside Trail section of the site, but even that lists Bristol as the “general area.”
Residents in this part of the state have long held belief that the state capital treats us with little respect. Navigating the tourism site would confirm that in many a mind.
As Northeast Tennessee comes together in its regionalism approach to economic development, quality of life has been considered a major draw for business to locate here. Along with our mountains, ridges, trails, streams and lakes, we bring a lot of culture to the table, including our music and arts festivals.
One aspect of the regionalism effort has been to identify a name for the area more recognizable and meaningful than “The Tri-Cities.” The state seems to think that name is Bristol. It’s not.
It’s time for an overhaul — not just of the tourism site but of the state’s overall attitude toward the Tri-Cities.