Bedford County Arts Scene Thrives With Music, Theater and Festivals
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeffrey S. Otto
Bedford County's signature festivals and events, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Wartrace MusicFest and the RC and Moon Pie Festival, combine with a thriving downtown arts scene to attract thousands from across the country each year.
Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration
The largest event in Bedford County is the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, held each August and September. Deemed the world's largest horse show, the 11-day celebration has been a big part of the community since 1939. Walking horses are known for their distinctive high-in-the-air, front-foot gaits, and 200,000 walking horse fans from across the country crowd Calsonic Arena to participate in the festivities. Champions in more than 30 different divisions at the celebration are still crowned during the 11 days, culminated by a World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse that is named on the Saturday night before Labor Day. The celebration is estimated to provide an annual $50 million boon to the local economy.
RC and Moon Pie Festival
The world’s largest moon pie – along with the crowning of the Moon Pie Queen and Moon Pie King – are all part of the annual RC and Moon Pie Festival in Bell Buckle. Every June‚ more than 20‚000 people travel to Bell Buckle to celebrate the combined taste treat of a moon pie washed down with a Royal Crown Cola. Events include a parade‚ moon pie eating competitions‚ live music‚ craft displays and children’s activities. There is also the cutting of the world’s largest edible moon pie‚ which measures four feet in diameter and is 14 inches thick.
Wartrace MusicFest is sure to please any old-time music lover. The event is an annual musical get-together that celebrates the old-time music and homemade crafts – rich traditions in Wartrace. The event takes place on the weekend after Memorial Day and is jam-packed with performances by top Nashville-based artists as well as local bands. Other happenings during the event include an arts and crafts show and a one-hour open-mic competition for amateur musicians. All proceeds from the festival go back into the community, primarily for park improvements and downtown enhancements. Even the lodging options for MusicFest are one of a kind, with accommodations available at the Walking Horse Hotel, Historic Main Street Inn and the Parish Patch – all in Wartrace.
Webb School Arts and Crafts Show
The Webb School Arts and Crafts Show brings 60,000 people to Bell Buckle each October, more than doubling the county’s normal population. Cornerstone offerings include painting, sculpture, stained glass, fiber arts and handcrafted jewelry. The Webb event, with 150 booths of fine arts and crafts, began in 1979, but it is far from the only show in town. An additional 600 exhibitors set up downtown, on Maple Street and in rented yards. And there’s a “round the world” food court with offerings far beyond typical festival fare. Patrons often book Bedford County’s motels and bed-and-breakfasts a year in advance to attend. With Bell Buckle proper a full three blocks or so long, farmers open their land for parking as a Lions Club fundraiser. Shoppers also ride hay wagons to the show grounds.
Fly Cultural Arts Center
The Fly Cultural Arts Center in downtown Shelbyville offers arts activities ranging from holiday dinner theater to art classes and live music, including the Nashville Symphony. Housed in a 1927 building that once was the site of a clothing manufacturing company, the center added its theater in 2003 and hosts musicals and plays throughout the year for both adults and children. Past productions have included Nunsense, Steel Magnolias and Always Patsy Cline. But the Fly Arts Center isn’t just for theater enthusiasts. Operated by the Bedford County Arts Council, the center also displays the works of local artists. Painting and drawing classes for adults and youth are offered throughout the year. The Bedford County History Museum also is housed inside the center, along with a memorial to veterans.
The longest-running business in Shelbyville, the renovated Capri Theater serves as a focal point of downtown with its dazzling vintage marquee. The theater still has many of its original amenities, including illuminated signage throughout the interior and steel railing on the staircase. The cinema plays first-run films on its two screens – one in the balcony with stadium seating and the other equipped with rocking chairs.