One of the great fun activities in Gatlinburg is to stroll along Parkway, catching the numerous sights and attractions. Summer raises the fun level for evening strollers with the city’s annual Tunes & Tales street performances, starting this year on June 10 and running through July 30, 2016 – now the 11th year of this hugely popular event.
Tunes & Tales features musicians, dancers, character actors, storytellers and artisans – many of them in period costume evoking Appalachian times, and all of them paying tribute to the heritage of the Smoky Mountains. Where will they perform? Ah well, perhaps anywhere you’re strolling. Expect at any turn to encounter a cluster of people gathered around a performance.
The performances take place every evening between 6 pm and 11 pm. Look for a horse-drawn wagon beginning at 6 pm, setting down a group of performers, who then split off into smaller acts and vanish along the Parkway, selecting good spots to set up and entertain the passers-by stretching their legs.
Be enchanted on your evening stroll by the sweet sound of banjo and dulcimer, guitar and fiddle, and the strains of bluegrass on the air. Listen to a tale of the old Smokies, and be beguiled by characters from the past. Engage in the great American pastime of watching a man carve wood – whittling by a master that is.
And if none of this gets your attention, you’ll pull up sharp when you come across a group of cloggers making their moves and showing how this old folk dance is done. You may even get a lesson if you’re feeling adventurous.
The performers of Tunes & Tales are drawn from the vast array of local talent in the area, as well as bands and performers who come in especially for the event. The variety is astonishing for a free festival that happens in bits and pieces, with no published program, that you stumble across around every corner.
For a hint of who may be playing out of the dozens and dozens of acts, as well as video clips, sound bites, scenes and pictures of performers past, present and future, check the Tunes & Tales Facebook page.
The city of Gatlinburg started the innovative Tunes & Tales event more than a decade ago, and it continues to be one of the most popular features of the summer. Winter gets its turn also by the way, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as the performers serenade Parkway strollers with seasonal carols on weekends.
Gatlinburg was always a walking town, with plenty of stops for entertainment. Now with Tunes & Tales, you don’t even have to stop – although it’ll be hard not to get caught up for hours in the street fun.
Here’s some footage from a previous year: