Of all the towns in the Tri-Cities, perhaps the most understated and the friendliest is the one that sits hidden, down by the river.
Welcome, folks, to Bluff City, Tenn.
It’s one of this region’s oldest settlements, built along the South Fork of the Holston River in Sullivan County.
Over the years, it’s been called Middletown, Union, Union Depot and Zollicoffer.
But, come Saturday, all will be focused on what’s happened here since 1887 – when the town became known as “Bluff City.”
That’s when the annual Heritage Day celebration kicks off at 8 a.m. Sept. 26 with crafters and yard-sale vendors opening shop along Main Street.
“It’s just like a homecoming,” said Kathryn Nichols, the librarian at Bluff City’s Thomas Memorial Library.
“People come back and see old friends. And they just have a good time looking at old cars and buying trinkets and food and enjoying the music.”
Entertainment starts at 9 a.m. with a show by the Gingham Cloggers.
Gary Melvin plays bagpipes at 11:30 a.m.
Other entertainers include the Little Deer Dancers at 2:30 p.m. and the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass Band at 3 p.m.
Along the way, you’ll also find shows for cars, trucks and motorcycles, said Wanda Phillips, the festival organizer and a clerk in the town office.
“Most of the people are in town around 11 a.m. to noon,” Phillips said. “And we have the children’s hot-air balloons and bounce-walks from noon to 3 p.m.”
Mayfield, too, is giving away free ice cream, as early as 8 a.m.
But, wait – who eats ice cream for breakfast?
“Anything free,” Phillips said, laughing, “you ought to know people want it.”
Marlene Larsen, the president of Bluff City’s Friends of the Library, plans to join Nichols at a booth on Main Street, selling yard-sale wares to help support the library.
“We do it as a fundraiser,” Larsen said. “We buy books for the library ... We buy magazines ... A lot of people in our area – including Bluff City and Piney Flats – don’t even know we have a library. And it’s a wonderful library.”
The Friends group offers a tag sale and includes some baked goods plus some used items, including glassware, that people have donated, said Larsen, who moved to town a few years ago from Beacon Falls, Conn.
“It’s a big deal,” Larsen said. “We get a lot of people.”
Phillips expects as many as 2,000 people – or more – to pour down Main Street and check out all there is to see.
“It’s not just a reunion,” Phillips said.
“There are a lot of people who just come from everywhere. I think they just come down for the small town atmosphere.”
And, of course, all the friendly faces.
Bluff City Heritage Day runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 26. For more information about the event, call (423) 538-7144.