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Ames Plantation Hosts 20th Annual Heritage Festival


‚ÄčBy Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

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Grand Junction, Tenn. – Saturday October 14, 2017 marked the 20th annual Heritage Festival at Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee – a festival dedicated to demonstrating what life was like for early settlers in west Tennessee. It’s an ideal way to educate children about how many of the things we use every day are made, and give them real life experiences doing a variety of activities.

The festival depends on volunteer help – 80 this year – to manage all the traffic and to help make the festival work smoothly. Jamie Evans, Assistant Superintendent of the Ames Plantation, organizes and manages this event, as well as heading the archaeological and historical work at Ames. Saturday’s weather was warm and sunny, drawing record attendance to the event: 6,630 visitors!

This year’s event featured over 300 traditional skills artists, craft vendors, demonstrators, and musicians who recreated the lifestyle of the 1800s through their music, special skill demonstrations, and all kinds of artistry and hand crafted items. There were demonstrations of old-fashioned skills like brick making (by the Marshall County African American Living History Association), tobacco curing, blacksmithing, hand picking cotton, logging with draft horses Kroger and Big Star, milking goats, quilting, weaving, broom making by Wayne and Leesa Thompson, making shakes by Gary McWilliams and family (wooden shingles made from split logs), storytelling at the Ames Schoolhouse, painting with coffee by Mary McAuslin, and more.  

There was a wide selection of folk art and crafts available for purchase –with 33 new vendors this year. There was stone ground corn meal, for making the best cornbread ever! And the most popular vendor on the plantation was Ray Byler’s (of Whiteville, Tennessee) homemade ice cream, churned on site with the help of a John Deere “Hit-and-Miss” engine.
Tractor enthusiasts could browse through a line-up of antique tractors, with children having the opportunity to sit in the seats and pretend to drive them.

Music is important to the region’s history and a big part of the Heritage Festival. There was an all-day line-up of bluegrass and string band music in the Mule Barn, and Music on the Cabin Porch featured dulcimer music from the North Mississippi Dulcimer Association, as well as other old time musicians.

Most activities took place in Ames’ Heritage Village – a replica of a 19th century settlement that includes several log cabins, a one-room school, and the Stencil House, named for the elaborate stencil designs that cover the interior walls.

Across the road from the Heritage Village was a reproduction of a Civil War camp, representing the 52nd Tennessee CSA Infantry Encampment.

On the way home, visitors could choose from a wide variety of pumpkins, on display in front of Bryan Hall, to take home a bit of fall décor, and for making those homemade pumpkin pies. Inside Bryan Hall was an extensive collection of antique, heritage quilts.

An interesting visitor to this year’s festival is Mary Fason Hunt (79), who was born and raised at Ames Plantation. She picked and chopped cotton on the Ames Plantation and worked there for many years. Her family has a long history at Ames: her grandmother, Isabella Fason, lived behind the old Jones Chapel Church (on Buford Ellington Road), and died at Ames at age 111.

To keep up with events at Ames Plantation, visit their website, and follow them on Also, be sure to visit the Ames Plantation photo gallery at:
Stone Ground Corn Bread
1 cup Stone Ground Corn Meal
1 cup self-rising flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
¼ cup oil or butter
1 cup milk

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