The Foothills Fall Festival in Maryville, Tenn. will broaden its tradition of country and southern rock artists to include more eclectic and local bands this weekend.
Jane Groff, Foothills Fall Festival director, explained that the festival looked for acts based on requests from festival guests along with WIVK radio to recruit artists that would attract maximum attendance.
"It's primarily a country music and classic rock fan base, but we try to find bands that many people would like," Groff said. "We have Blues Traveler this year along with Janelle Arthur of American Idol fame. We even have CNN Headline News anchor, Robin Meade. If you haven't heard of the band before, chances are you will like it if they play the festival. Our performances have been spectacular."
Black Lilies, a local band, will perform at the festival. Front man, Cruz Contreras, said he thinks the festival has grown to incorporate more unique sounds.
He said he believes that they may not have been invited in previous years, and that it is excited to be a part of the growing sounds of Foothills.
"I think it's a pretty diverse lineup this year; we're certainly a little more eclectic than bands they've had in the past," Contreras said. "We do everything we can not to be categorized. We try to have musical integrity and keep our options open. It's kind of like a stew, but it has a lot of Appalachian roots.
"What you hear in the first 30 minutes won't have a lot in common with the next 30. You can hear traditional country to funk to rock in a show."
Headliners for the festival include jam band Blues Traveler on Friday night, southern rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd on Saturday and commercial country giants Rascal Flatts close the festival Sunday.
For smaller acts, simply being in the lineup with these acts adds an extra level of excitement to their weekend at the festival, Contreras said.
"When they invited us, the first thing you do is look at who else you're playing with," Contreras said. "It makes you feel good, and you see there's this hugely successful band that you get to be associated with."
The Black Lilies are currently on tour promoting their new album, "Runaway Freeway Blues." This album was recorded differently than their previous efforts – adding to their eclectic sound – and will be featured in the band's Foothills set.
"We got to build this one up track by track," Contreras said. "Our first album was made before there was even a band, and the second record was recorded live. This record formed from the road."
As with any festival, each year brings something new for the Foothills Fall Festival.
The ArtWay show will host new artists and craftsmen along with new kids' attractions such as "rolling video games." The festival will also introduce many to Maryville's new restaurants, including Roost, Barley's, OvenArt, The Corner Café, Grinders and Grains and the new Vienna Coffee location.
"We also have our most popular attractions back again – including Twiggy the Water skiing squirrel, rock climbing walls, bungee rides, zip line and much more," Groff said. "We believe we are one of the top family events of the year in East Tennessee – offering many things to do all weekend long for free or an affordable price. We also believe the festival is a great marketing tool for our city.
"People from all over the world visit us this time of year – we even have folks coming in from Norway this year. It's a great way for us to promote our businesses and our community to visitors and industry."
The festival, which takes around 1,200 volunteers to operate, has a unique feel since it takes place during the autumn season.
"We offer a different atmosphere," Groff said. "Other festivals might have you choosing between one concert or another, but all of ours are in one location. In the fall, the weather is nice, and it's much more relaxed. Most people who attend consider this a big reunion – with a chance to gather with friends and family. It's a great family event and people of all ages can enjoy what we have to offer."
With three day passes available online for $70, Foothills aims to offer something for everyone of all ages beyond music.
"Festive, entertaining and depending on what you are doing, whether shopping the ArtWay or sitting back listening to some great bands, it's relaxing and enjoyable," Groff said. "But, maybe not relaxing if you are on the bungee ride or running through the laser tag maze. Then, it might be best described as fun and exhilarating."
For more information on the Foothills Fall Festival, click here.