Ames Heritage Festival

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Article & photos by Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

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The Historic Village at Ames Plantation, Grand Junction, Tennessee, was once again transformed to a fair-like setting for the 18th annual Heritage Festival on October 10, 2015. Cloudy skies and cool temperatures in the morning gave way to sunny skies and warm temperatures after lunch, making Saturday a delightful day for exploring a wide variety of crafts and learning about the “old ways” of farming and making everything one could need. This year had one of the highest attendance rates in all of its 18 years: 5,121 visitors. There were approximately 150 crafts artists/vendors demonstrating their skills and selling their creations.

There was story telling and historic information about Native American culture, in the days before Europeans arrived.  Dale DeBerry explained the history and techniques of brick making by slaves. The Civil War era was represented by re-enactors dressed in period attire, demonstrating an encampment and firing artillery.

Folk artists brought their skills to show: basket weaving, stenciling, knitting, spinning, weaving, tatting, quilting, pottery, wood carving, gourd art, portrait silhouettes, leatherwork, bird houses, driftwood art, all kinds of jewelry, broom making, painting, photography, and much more.

From the era of hard work and self-sufficiency, visitors could learn about blacksmithing and farriery (shoeing horses), antique tractors, meat processing, milling grain – particularly stone ground corn meal; dark fired tobacco production, alpaca wool, goat milking and making goat’s milk soap; all about cotton – picking, ginning, spinning, and all the things that can be made from a bale of cotton. Gary McWilliams demonstrated the 19th century techniques for building a log cabin, from hewing and notching logs to riving shakes (making shingles). Alan Smith once again brought Kroger and Big Star to demonstrate how logging with horses is done.

Blues, gospel, and string band music could be heard all day from the aisle of the Mule Barn, dulcimer playing on the cabin front porch, and artists playing accordion and dulcimer on the porch of another cabin. Visitors could see a demonstration of the earliest music recording devices.

This year’s festival included writers, offering their books for sale and telling the particular history of the south they have captured in their fiction. Margaret Tutor, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, writes historical fiction in her latest book Just Passing Through, about the sharecropping Ward family in the 1920s. Ramona Bridges, of Seminary, Mississippi, has a trilogy out: Standing On the Promises, An Unclouded Day, andSweet By and By. Randy Bishop brought his Civil War-themed books. He is an avid scholar of the Civil War and an advocate for preservation and restoration of historic battlefields. He has authored several books, including Tennessee’s Civil War Battlefields, Civil War Generals of Tennessee, Kentucky’s Civil War Battlefields, The Tennessee Brigade, and Mississippi’s Civil War Battlefields.
The Ames Plantation Historical Society offered a drawing for one of the handmade quilts on display. The winner was a lady from Rochester, NY.

There was plenty of food to enjoy, from Mexican to BBQ to hamburgers to popcorn and funnel cakes.

And on their way home, visitors could pick up a few pumpkins for their fall decorations and pumpkin pie making.

Since the National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs is held annually at Ames Plantation in February, bird dogs have become a part of the Heritage Festival. Visitors can learn about quail, bird dogs, field trials, see Pointers and Setters, and pet them, at the festival.

Ames Plantation’s Heritage Village is a collection of restored structures representing the area’s architectural heritage from around 1820 until the early 20th century.  The Village includes a typical 19th century family farmstead, the 1830s Stencil House, a one-room schoolhouse from the early 1900s, a replica brick kiln, and the “Cotton Interpretative Center" housed in a restored log cabin.

The Heritage Festival is held annually to educate the public about the area’s history, the variety of 19th century artisan skills that were necessary for existence, and entertain with the sounds of gospel, bluegrass, traditional, and old time music on a variety of musical instruments. Visitors can purchase many of the hand-made items offered. There are also opportunities for visitors to take part in hands-on activities like picking cotton or greens and milking goats.

Find more information about Ames Plantation, the Heritage Festival, and the National Championship field trials at: If you are a history buff, there is also opportunity to join the Ames Plantation Historical Society and become involved in preservation projects at Ames. Information about the Historical Society is also available at the Ames Plantation website.

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