Chattanooga Now Animal encounters, environmental awareness, small-town fun themes of weekend festivals

Chattanooga Now Animal encounters, environmental awareness, small-town fun themes of weekend festivals

May 16th, 2018 by Susan Pierce in Chattnow Outabout

The Rhododendron Festival in Mentone, Ala., showcases nature's beauty such as this vibrant red rhododendron,

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Jeff Payne checks out vintage cars at a previous Down Home Days in Chickamauga, Ga. Saturday's Cruise-In will be held 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on the Gordon Lee High School horseshoe, 105 Lee Circle.

Jeff Payne checks out vintage cars at a...

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

This weekend's five area festivals lure visitors with more than the expected crafts, concessions and carnival rides. They are offering novelties ranging from the release of a rehabilitated hawk to pig races.

In Mentone, Ala., the riotous colors of blooming rhododendron wait for photo-ops with visitors to the Rhododendron Festival. Meanwhile in Chickamauga, Ga., the Lions Club extends Southern hospitality to visitors from across the region who will travel to its 46th Down Home Days.

Down Home Days

-Where: Downtown Chickamauga, Ga.

-When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, May 19

-Admission: Free

-For more information:

The 46th Down Home Days, sponsored by the Chickamauga Lions Club, begins Saturday with Morning Yoga at the Mansion,when Angela Pence leads a free yoga class on the grounds of the Gordon Lee Mansion, 217 Cove Road, at 9 a.m. Participants will need that stretching to limber up and be ready for walking the festival site the remainder of the day.

Down Home Days Festival includes crafters, food trucks and food tents, entertainment, music and dancing set in a backdrop of small-town charm.

Always popular is the Down Home Cruise-In. It will be held 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on the Gordon Lee High School horseshoe, 105 Lee Circle. All antique, vintage and custom vehicles are welcome. The cruise-in is free, but you must register to receive a parking pass. Register by email:

Little Owl Festival

-Where: Audubon Acres, 900 N. Sanctuary Road

-When: 10 a.m. race, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. festival Saturday, May 19

-Admission: Race registration $25 in advance, $30 day of, which includes festival admission. Festival $7 per person, $15 per carload.

-For more information: 423-892-1499

Watch a rehabilitated hawk return to the wild. Explore shady, creekside hiking trails. Grab a beer and a bite from a food truck while enjoying live music. All that and more traditional festival fun are part of the Little Owl Festival to benefit the Chattanooga Audubon Society.

A new event has been added to kick off the event at the East Brainerd wildlife sanctuary on Saturday. Little Owl's Race for Wildlife 5k will be held at 10 a.m., with registration starting at 9 a.m. Kyle Simpson, executive director of the Chattanooga Audubon Society, says the route features a "beginner-friendly course alongside the canopied South Chickamauga creek, bisecting the 130-acre property."

Register for the race in advance for a $5 discount on the entry fee:

North Georgia Agricultural Fair Spring Carnival

-Where: 500 Legion Drive, Dalton, Ga.

-When: Gates open 5 p.m Thursday-Friday, May 17-18; 12:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, May 19-20

-Admission: At the gate: $5 daily admission ages 4 and older, $20 unlimited rides wristband. Advance sales: $4 admission only; $15 admission and unlimited rides, must be purchased by Friday, May 18. Advance tickets must be purchased online:

-For more information: 706-278-1712

This 24th annual fair offers everything from All-American Racing Pigs to Modern Midway carnival with its new thrill ride, Hyper Loop. View the carnival from the air on a helicopter ride or on the ground in one of the 30 amusement rides.

Pollinator Festival

-Where: Lookout Mountain School gym, 321 N. Bragg Ave.

-When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, May 20

-Admission: Free

-For more information: 901-482-5903

Buzz by Lookout Mountain Elementary School for exhibits and displays, gardening advice, pollinator planting guides and activities for children.

Bring photos of your yard and experts from Wild Ones and the Tennessee Aquarium will advise you on plants that will attract butterflies and bees. Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center staff will be on-site with native plants for sale as well as animal friends to visit.

Rhododendron Festival

-Where: Mentone Brow Park, North Cool Street, Mentone, Ala.

-When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. CDT Saturday, May 19; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. CDT Sunday, May 20

-Admission: Free, $5 parking with free shuttles to festival site

-For more information: 256-845-3957

If the colorful beauty of wildly blooming rhododendron at their peak isn't enough to draw you on a day-trip to Mentone, the festival fun should do it.

From handcrafted wooden trains to blacksmithing, crocheted pieces incorporating freshwater pearls, blown glass and mixed-media arts, the Rhododendron Festival presents some of the finest hand-crafted gifts and home decor available.

Of course, there's always the food, music on the Brow Park Stage, cloggers, storytellers, horse-drawn carriage rides and scenic boat rides on Little River, too. You can even buy a potted rhododendron to take home as a memento of the day.