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Old West Day ~ Blountville TN

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On a beautiful spring day, we headed up the road to Blountville, to see their Old West Day, on Saturday, May 23, 2009.

My husband was chomping at the bit to see this reenactment of the rough and tumble days of outlaws and cowboys. We had both grown up surrounded by cowboys and tales of cowboys, and it was common in the west, where we are from. It was a bit of a shock to realize that we had not seen anything remotely like that on the East Coast, and it was high time a bit of the Old West arrived!

We arrived to see little historic city of Blountville, neatly cordoned off. The lawns and fronts of the antique brick buildings of downtown were taken over by Old West Day. Little boys in cowboy hats and vests, families with babies in strollers, and a small crowd milled around the street enjoying the free event.

Old Tennessee runs deep in Blountville. Historic signs were in front of virtually every building up and down Main Street, the Blountville Courthouse, a Civil War Memorial, the original bell, the Deery Inn and Museum. The Anderson Townhome hosted the Roan Mountain Moonshiners from their 2 story log home.

Street vendors lined the road, starting just to the right of the pretty old courthouse. It looked like a new festival, with only a few vendors selling kettle corn, handmade banjos and violins, and icy snow cones to cool attendees down on a sultry day.

Wafting through the air, old time mountain music met our ears and the unmistakable smell of hickory smoked, slow cooked BBQ tickled our noses. It turned out that it is the best we have tasted in Blountville so far!

Cowboys strutted up and down the street, hanging around the antique buildings. A posse of men in wooden chairs congregated under a tree. Dripping with guns and bullets, men of the old West, waiting for a chance to right a wrong by challenging someone to a dual. Horses were everywhere, adding a wild west backdrop to the lush green town of Blountville.

Two wagons were placed in the middle of the street, alerting the public to the shoot out area. Outlaws, lawmen, cowboys, roving gangs from the Old West prowled around, along with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

The organizers kept the shoot outs briskly punctuating the day, breaking out about every 30 minutes. Small skirmishes, they eventually led up to the big event everyone was waiting for.

The main event of the day, the Shoot Out at the OK Corral was set for a 3pm. The real shoot out happened back in dry, dusty Tombstone Arizona Territory in the United States, on October 26, 1881 about 3pm. Tombstone Marshalls Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, along with Doc Holliday had challenged some no good bandits, who were accused of stage robbery. Their drunken friend called in his family the next day. Things escalated and went quickly out of control.

The most famous gunfight of the rugged Old West exploded in about 30 gunshots fired in only 30 seconds. While it is called the "Shoot Out at the OK Corral," it actually happened up and down an alley between two businesses, and ended in Fremont Street in Tombstone. Three men lay dead at the end of the gunfight.  Two Earp brothers were hurt, Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday took a shot as well. All survived the initial fight.

Exchange the fine dry dust of Tombstone's old west streets for historic Blountville.Two men begin hollering across the road at one another. The gauntlet is thrown down, the challenge. Both tensely draw their guns, eyeballing one another. Who will be the first to die?

Shots are fired. A fast and fierce gunfight ensues. One man falls dead in the street. Another runs to help him, he is shot at. Others jump in and the fight goes from two men to several. It ends with one death.

Timing issues and a busy day of history hopping forced us to miss the actual reenactment of the Shoot Out at the OK Corral at 3pm.

Unfortunately, we missed the tours of the historic Deery Inn and Museum, the main reason we had gone to Blountville. We had no idea that tours started on the hour, every hour. A sign at the door informed us that each tour was full for the day. We were covering 3 events in one day, so we had to skedaddle.

All in all we have mixed feelings on the Old West days in historic Blountville Tennessee. The town made a gorgeous backdrop. But growing up in "Stagecoach Town USA," a few miles from the desert in California, it was odd for me. The lushness of the Appalachian mountains contrasted with the dry dusty desert in my mind,. It was just odd to see the breathtaking beauty of an emerald mountain spring, and make it the shoot out I had grown up seeing done a million and one times!

Snobbery aside (and I chuckle as I think of us Californians, reenacting the Civil War in the dry brown hills of California - as opposed to the shamrock green of the East coast) it is a new event that has promise. You can't beat the price!

Conflicting scenery aside, it was great to see some SASS members and real cowboy action shooting again. SASS stands for Single Action Shooting Society. They advertise their club as "the closest you will to the Old West short of a time machine." Pretty good!

Especially attractive to little boys, try the Old West Day in the pretty little historic town of Blountville in Northeast Tennessee next May! This event should grow and become awesome, so look for Blountvilles Old West Day in 2010!

And we HIGHLY recommend the BBQ!