Around 2,000 people visited the Tusculum College campus April 19-21 for the Old Oak Festival, which featured music, arts, creative writing, storytelling, theater, children’s activities and regional authors.
The Old Oak for which the festival is named was the focus Saturday afternoon of a ceremony to celebrate its naming to the Tennessee Landmark and Historic Tree Register of the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. Describing it as a symbol of endurance, Tusculum College President Nancy B. Moody shared the history of the large, white-oak tree that pre-dates the College. The tree stands 100 feet tall and has a circumference of 23 feet. The limbs and branches of the 250 to 300 year-old tree span 100 feet across.
Tom Simpson, representing the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council, recalled that when he visited campus the first time, he knew which tree was the Old Oak. “It’s a magnificent tree,” he said, sharing the history of the Landmark and Historic Tree Register. Storyteller Saundra Kelley asked those gathered for the ceremony to imagine the frontier when the tree was just a sapling and reflect about its strength and endurance.
More than 70 arts, crafts and food vendors filled the area between McCormick Hall and the Niswonger Commons as well as the Pioneer Arena. Homemade arts and crafts such as jewelry, artwork, quilts and woodwork could be found among the vendors and festival fare such as hot dogs, funnel cake, ice cream and Italian ice and baked goods tempted the taste buds of those at the festival. Llamas from Walnut Ridge Farm were a hit all weekend, as was a falcon demonstration by Dr. Michael Bodary, assistant professor of English at Tusuclum.
Musical entertainment ran the gamut from the eight-year-old fiddler Carson Peters to the hard rock style of Capgun on Friday and Saturday and storytellers shared their tales on the stage as well.
Performances and creative works by Tusculum students, faculty, staff and alumni were also featured in a variety of ways. Prints by art and design students were on display and sale all weekend as well as the official festival poster created by student Jacinta Holdsclaw.
Education students and members of the Tusculum cheerleading squad manned the “Kiddie Korner,” which offered crafts, games, story time and face painting to youngsters. Among the musical performers students Curtis Moneyhun, Zach Wampler, Chris Weems, Jack Lampley, Robert Arrowood, David Nunez and Ian Allison, alumnus Dane Hinkle ’04 who performed with Michael Cable, library staff member Charles Tunstall and Women’s Soccer Coach Mike Joy. Also performing with Joy were student Kimsie Hall and Michael Hawkins, an assistant athletic trainer at the college. Hawkins is also part of the Capgun band.
The Tusculum College Jazz Band performed on Saturday afternoon and also joined John Brown and Kevin Wilder and members of Shiloh in a surprise performance on Saturday evening. A highlight of the festival was the performance by Shiloh, Tusculum alumni who had performed together as a band while students who came back together to perform for the festival.
The Students for Christ Gospel Choir, a student-led and organized group on campus, gave their final performance for the spring semester on Sunday. Sunday’s festivities also included an old-time church service, which provided attendees with a glimpse of the life of circuit-riding preachers and what a frontier church service might be like.
The latest edition of The Tusculum Review, the college’s literary journal, was celebrated with a launch party on Friday afternoon with readings by Jan LaPerle, visiting assistant professor of English, and Erin Elizabeth Smith, whose works appear in the journal. Readings by Justin Reed and Ben Sneyd, the winners of the 2012-13 Curtis Owens Literary Prize student creative writing competition, were held on Saturday afternoon at the Rankin House prior to a reception for visiting artist Amanda Hood in the Allison Gallery.
Performances of “5 x 10,” five 10-minute plays by four Tusculum College students and a professor, were held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A second weekend of performances is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 26-27 and 2 p.m. on April 28 in the Behan Arena Theatre on the lower level (side entrance) of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building.
At almost any time during the weekend, people could be found waiting in line for the “Big Box,” a project by the Digital Media department, in which short films by students and faculty were streamed together to provide a surround visual and audio experience.
More than 100 students volunteered during the festival. Many were busy Friday morning helping vendors carry their wares to their booths while others assisted vendors in their booths, worked the Information Tent, helped move musical and stage equipment, provided directions to attendees in finding entertainment stages and other attractions, and picked up litter to keep campus clean.
Plans are already under way for next year’s festival. Mark your calendars to visit the Old Oak Festival April 25-27 in 2014. While festival organizers would like to have the festival the third weekend of April each year, please note that this is not the third weekend due to the Easter holiday.
For more photos of the Old Oak Festival, please visit the College’s Facebook page.