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Appalachian Homecoming

A Three-Day Celebration of Regional Cuisine

Article by Jennie Treadway-Miller

Photography by New Hope Children's Advocacy Center

Originally published in West Knoxville Lifestyle

The first weekend in August is set to be a feast for the senses as guest chefs and other leaders in the culinary industry gather in Townsend to celebrate what makes Appalachian cuisine so special. Centered around the 8th Annual Bacon at the Bear fundraiser, with proceeds going to New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center, patrons can expect engaging conversations, live music, and curated cocktails, with plenty of bacon-centric dishes to enjoy.

“We’ve been partnering with Allan Benton since 2016 to do a nonprofit event to benefit New Hope, and that event has always been about celebrating Appalachian food. So, we wanted to build on what we’ve been doing before,” says Houston Oldham, director of operations at Dancing Bear Lodge & Appalachian Bistro. “Appalachian cuisine is a mixture of techniques that’s been passed down through generations combined with our current food makers, the farmers. With this event, we’re exploring what makes us authentic, so we wanted to bring in professionals and let the public talk to them, rub shoulders with them. That’s the community aspect.”

While Friday night’s events are invite-only, Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, are open to the public. Attendees can opt to participate in a single event or purchase a combo ticket to all of the scheduled events. The workshops and panel discussions on Saturday run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and tickets include a buffet-style lunch by Lodge Cast Iron. Later that evening, guests are invited to dine at Bacon at the Bear from 6-9 p.m., with proceeds from this event benefiting New Hope. Come Sunday morning, arrive hungry to the Farewell Bluegrass Brunch prepared by Executive Chef Jeff Carter and his team at the Bistro while enjoying live Bluegrass music.

“We want to explore what it means to be Appalachian in 2023, so in that way, it’s an experiment. There are big voices in our food scene, so we want to celebrate the existing community and share that so everyone will come back next year,” says Houston.

The team is particularly excited to feature Wyatt Ellis, a 14-year-old musician from Maryville making waves in the Bluegrass and Country music scene.

“Our whole philosophy is to take care of people. Everything flows from that,” says Houston. “When we do events like this, or even in our daily service, we take care of our guests and our staff. We want folks to come in and have a rest from the world, and we’re hoping this event features great conversation and community with food and spirits, but we also want you to rest when you’re with us. If we can accomplish that in our first year, it will be a monster success.”

Visit DancingBearLodge.com/event/appalachian-homecoming-2023 to purchase tickets.

Workshop leaders and special guests include:

Chef Sean Brock, restaurateur, and James Beard Award Winner

Allan Benton, Owner of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams

Roy Milner, Chief Fermentation Officer at Blackberry Farms Brewery

Christopher Burger, farmer and co-founder of Bluestem Hollow

Jessi Baker, Co-owner at Ole Smoky Moonshine

Aaron Astor, Associate Professor of History at Maryville College

Kris Stubblefield, chef at Lodge Cast Iron

Alex Miller, farmer, Co-Owner Lick Skillet Farm. CSEE Founder and Director Emeritus and William B. Stokely Chair in Management. Hallam College of Business

Slow Food TN Valley with Four Daughters Farm