NORRIS, Tenn. — Year after year, the lure of nonstop mountain music, old-time crafts and camaraderie beckons them back.
Some come from thousands of miles away to watch and listen, to perform or to showcase traditional skills and old-timey foods, from sassafras tea to homemade mincemeat.
It's the 33rd annual Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia.
For 30 festivals now, Floyd and Melissa Anderson of Milledgeville, Ga., have staked out a shady spot to display all of the steps in basket weaving — from white oak log to finished product — and tout their wares.
"We've met so many people and become friends with them, it's just like it says — it's a homecoming," Melissa Anderson said.
With picture-perfect weather in the forecast for the three-day event and musicians performing on five outdoor stages, museum President Elaine Irwin Meyer said between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors are expected each day.
"I like the music and the people and the surroundings," said 86-year-old Tom Bell of Louisville, Ky. This will be the 22nd year in a row that he's made the 225-mile trek from his home.
Thursday was Heritage Day — the kickoff before homecoming and set aside for kids.
Some 2,000 schoolchildren visited the 60-acre museum, dotted with log homes and other historic structures from Appalachia's yesteryear.
They played games from that bygone era, watched demonstrations and savored samples of sorghum molasses.
After they leave, Bell said his usual strategy is to stake out front-row center seats for the main stage performances.
"We just go because we love it," said California resident Jill Worley, a member of Lillies of the West, an all-woman, old-time string band that has attended homecoming for 19 years.
They will be performing four times today on the main stage.
This is the eighth year that Danny and Debbie Dunn drove from Union Grove, Ala., to the festival. "I have a real thing for old log structures, and I also like the bluegrass and mountain music," Debbie Dunn said. She said they are bringing a Scottish Highland calf as a donation to the museum.
Meyer said several performers have been recruited this homecoming in a bid to appeal to the younger set. Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, an award-winning bluegrass band, is one of the new groups.Comment on this story
Meyer said her father, John Rice Irwin, who launched the festival, continues to recuperate from a stroke and hopes to make an appearance during the event.
"We love him," Debbie Dunn said of Irwin. "He is just the salt of the earth."
Homecoming will be held 9 a.m.-6 p.m. today through Sunday. Adult tickets range from $30 for one day to $75 for the entire event.