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Heritage is a Patchwork Quilt

Growing up in Rogersville, East Tennessee, there was nothing more anticipated each year than the annual Heritage Days Festival held on Main Street in our little town each autumn.

Amanda Colleen Williams red hair kid with braids from Tennessee

Usually falling sometime around my late October birthday, every year I looked forward to the Heritage Days weekend.


Rogersville takes great pride in being the second oldest town in the State of Tennessee, and it shows that off in the yearly festival.


As children in kindergarten up through third or fourth grade, many of us would dress up in traditional clothing for the event.


My mom shared in the excitement each year, and went all out, sewing my costume from a McCall pattern using her Singer sewing machine and her own hand-stitches.


In case you’re not familiar with turn of the century Tennessee dress, it looks like Little House on the Prairie with a lot more Davy Crockett coonskin caps.


I adored my costumes, dresses with aprons and pleats, and bonnets that tied under the chin.


We kids would romp around Main Street with classmates and cousins in the middle of the road that gets blocked off to car traffic on these special days.  What a novelty that was to us back then!  Amazing!


There were crafts, many of them created by skilled local artisans who had shops up and down Main Street or who came in from nearby counties to show off their wares.


There were hot dogs and hamburger stands, cotton candy, popcorn, fresh squeezed lemonade and of course funnel cakes! 


The local schools got into the action as well.


Our two local elementary / middle schools were always out in full force, and if you didn’t get enough revelry at Heritage Days, there was Fall Fest at Hawkins Elementary right around the corner.


Here I am talking about Heritage Days as if it was a thing of the past.  Not so!  Heritage Days is alive and well in Rogersville, Tennessee, and you can experience it yourself this fall.


I must have Heritage Days on the brain after seeing a post on Facebook celebrating Rogersville Heritage Association’s recent grant award from the Tennessee Arts Commission.


Now that I’m a Middle Tennessee resident, having moved down here in the eighth grade for Dad to pursue his songwriting dream, I have often longed for the small-town Main Street experience.


It has been a refreshing to find some of that familiar down home hospitality with my friends at the Williamson County Heritage Foundation, whose historic preservation work is the stuff of legends. 


In fact, just yesterday, their accomplishments were touted in The Tennessean article titled “How Franklin and Williamson County have created a roadmap for historic preservation.”

What is Tennessee heritage?  The dictionary definition doesn’t do justice to what “heritage” means to me, so I’ll go out on a limb here and have a go at it.


Heritage is the sum-total of all that is good about a group of people based on where they come from, what they believe and the lessons they learn from the mistakes they make.


Even within our beloved State of Tennessee, there are many groups within groups who share distinctive cultural traits not found anywhere else.


And yet, when we come together as one State, we find ourselves part of something greater – something timeless and important beyond our individual or familial experience.


When we listen to the voices of our neighbors and friends, and of people whose experience is different from our own, we begin to see a glimpse of the fabric of which we are all a part.


That fabric is not one solid piece.


But rather it is the patchwork quilt, hand sewn, like the ones my grandma made – the ones sold at Heritage Days.


It is my honor to share some of what my Tennessee Heritage means to me with you through my writing and musical artistry.  I hope you will do the same and share some of what makes you unique with me.


What does heritage mean to you?  Please comment below and stay in touch. 




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