By Meg Dickens
The threat of rain was not enough to put a damper on the 4th annual Long Journey Home this Labor Day weekend. Participants set up tents and took cover near buildings in case of a torrential downpour, but it was not needed. Long Journey Home is an annual event celebrating Johnson County’s traditional music, art, and rich local history. This year’s theme was “Black Smoke a Risin’ and it Surely is a Train.” According to Karla Prudhomme, “people come from all over the nation” to attend.
Long Journey Home started with a kick-off dinner and dance at the Johnson County Senior Center on Thursday, August 30. Young and elderly alike took to the dance floor for traditional square dancing accompanied by music from The Long Journey Home Band. The evening also included a shape note singing presentation and an old-fashioned cakewalk.
Friday festivities started out with an art show at the Johnson County Center for the Arts. Many talented artists contributed. The final results are as follows: Temple Reece in first place with “Backbone Rock’s Train” and Dottie Harmon in second place with “Sunflowers.” The event continued with a quilt show by the First Sunrise Quilt Guild at the First Christian Church Christian Life Center.
Later that evening, buskers chased the rain clouds away with the sweet swells of music on Main Street. People young and old performed with string instruments ranging from the smallest violin to the gigantic cello. These performers should look familiar. Many of them are your friends and family. Vendors lined the street with tasty treats and souvenirs. The event went on long after dark and included the premiere of Germain Media’s new film Butler, TN – The Town That Refused To Drown.
Saturday, September 1 started out with the self-guided Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour exploring local history with stops such as the capture site of Tom Dula, famous early 1900s musician Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s home and the location of the 1925 Fiddler’s Convention. Musicians waited at each stop to bring history back to life with their instruments. Groups included The Bluegrass Backroads at Maymead; Lois Dunn, Stephen Long, Kyman and Andrew Matherly at Lois’ Café; Kenny Price and Jerry Moses at Tom Ashley’s Homeplace; and The Piney Woods Boys at Fred Price’s Homeplace. The event ended with an open jam session and refreshments.
Temple Reece unveiled her mural that afternoon depicting The Lopsided Three that ran on the Laurel Railway and is one in a series of five new murals around the Mountain City area. The ceremony opened with train medleys including the theme’s namesake from Danny Meadows, Stephen Long, Kenny Price, The Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) and many more.
Long Journey Home closed with an old-fashioned Sunday singing at Heritage Hall Theatre organized by Stephen Long. Performing groups include Forgiven, Narrow Road and The Laurel Creek Boys. The 2018 Johnson County Long Journey Home officially ended with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”