It's fall, y'all, but in Lebanon, Tennessee, they're thinking about Christmas — and making no apologies for the nod toward the next season.
"I once read somewhere that 70-80% [of consumers] start thinking about and purchasing their first items for Christmas in the month of September," said Kristi Rowan, president of Midsouth Media Group, which produces Mistletoe Merchants, scheduled Friday through Sunday in Wilson County's Farm Bureau Expo Center about 30 miles east of Nashville.
It's one of five festivals happening or continuing in the tri-state area this weekend. A sixth, the DeKalb County VFW Agricultural Fair in Fort Payne, Alabama, starts Monday with a nightly carnival and other entertainment leading up to an all-day celebration on Oct. 3.
Other day-trip options include a jaunt to Marietta for a flavorful alternative to the North Georgia State Fair, happening the next two weekends, or to Pigeon Forge for the opening of the six-week Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights at Dollywood.
Closer to home, the Pumpkin Palooza family festival will take place Saturday at Greenway Park & Pavilion in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Rowan said Mistletoe Merchants is one of six spring and holiday markets her company produces in Tennessee and Mississippi.
"Last year we had about 5,000 shoppers, doubling from the previous year of 2,500," Rowan said of the market, now in its fifth year in the Nashville area. "This event is really catching on and will soon be like our seasoned shows with 15,000 shoppers."
Her 20-year-old Memphis show typically draws crowds of that size, she said, but it has been canceled entirely this year due to coronavirus concerns. For the Nashville event, several popular mix-and-mingle activities have been dropped, including Cupcakes & Cocktails, Muffins & Mimosas, Sangria Sunday and Santa appearances. However, general-admission shopping among the more than 100 vendors will take place as scheduled.
"This is a shopper's chance to shop some of these unique businesses that you would not normally see, all while supporting small businesses and our economy," Rowan said.
Likewise, the North Georgia State Fair has scaled back this year, canceling the midway and blue-ribbon competitions and revamping as Taste of the Fair.
Visitors will drive through to view the menus of at least 15 food vendors, then park for in-car or walk-up service. In-car service will provide a limited menu and an attendant who will take and deliver orders. Walk-up service will provide a full vendor menu, and visitors will leave their cars to order directly from the vendors. Masks are required for anyone choosing walk-up service.
At Dollywood, the seasonal programming includes more than 800 concerts by Southern gospel and bluegrass artists over the next six weeks, along with demonstrations by resident crafters and visiting artists, set amid the autumnal beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. New for 2020 are pumpkins weighing up to 1,000 pounds each, great for using as photo backdrops or just for marveling at their colossal size. As the sun sets, the theme park transforms into a whimsical display of illuminated jack-o'-lanterns and other themed spectacles.
Email Lisa Denton at email@example.com.
AT A GLANCE
— Mistletoe Merchants: Farm Bureau Expo Center (formerly Wilson County Expo Center), 945 E. Baddour Parkway, Lebanon, Tenn. Events including Cupcakes & Cocktails, Muffins & Mimosas, Sangria Sunday and the silent auction have been canceled. Shopping among 100 merchants selling food, decor and fashion, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). $10 one-day ticket, $18 three-day pass, free for children 12 and younger. https://www.midsouthmediagroup.com/mistletoe-merchants-of-nashville-tn
SEPT. 25-27 and OCT. 2-4
— North Georgia State Fair: Jim Miller Park, 2245 Callaway Road, Marietta (enter at Gate 3 on Al Bishop Drive). Most events are canceled, but at least 15 food vendors will offer a Taste of the Fair with drive-thru or walk-up service starting at 4 p.m. each Friday and at noon Saturdays and Sundays. Free admission and parking. Donate seven nonperishable canned goods to Must Ministries to receive a free ticket to the 2021 fair. https://www.northgeorgiastatefair.com/
SEPT. 25-OCT. 31
— Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights: Dollywood, 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd., Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Features artistic sculptures, elaborate fall scenes, artisans, seasonal food, entertainment. $79 ages 10-61, discounts for younger and older guests. www.dollywood.com
- Pumpkin Palooza: Greenway Park and Pavilion, 755 Raider Drive, Cleveland, Tenn. Family festival with free games, train rides, inflatables, book making/storytelling for kids, $3 pick-and-paint pumpkin patch, live entertainment, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. https://familycornerstones.wordpress.com
SEPT. 28-OCT. 3
- DeKalb County VFW Agricultural Fair: VFW Hall, 151 18th St. NW, Fort Payne, Ala. Kissel Entertainment midway opens at 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday (all times Central); ticket specials certain days and hours; otherwise $1.25 per ticket or 22 tickets for $25. Live music each day; limited livestock shows. Chainsaw artist Corey Lancaster featured in Boon Hall. $4 gate admission for ages 6 and older; $3 fairgrounds parking. www.dekalbcountyvfwfair.com
THROUGH NOV. 1
— Pumpkin Festival — Play by Day, Glow by Night: Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd. Stone Mountain, Ga. Features thousands of jack-o'-lanterns, costumed characters, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, storytelling adventures, magic show and Dino Glow Experience, 2-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday. $26.95 ages 12 and up, $24.95 children 3-11 (some park attractions are additional fee); 12-month park membership $59.95 adults $49.95 children. https://www.stonemountainpark.com/