FESTIVALS THIS WEEKEND
Balloons & Tunes Festival: Thacker Drive, Rock Spring, Ga., 5-11 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. Free admission today; $10 adults, $5 children Saturday. 706-375-7702.
Dandridge Scots-Irish Festival: Downtown Dandridge, Tenn., begins 8:30 a.m. Saturday with bagpipe competition, day of activities and nonstop entertainment, all vendors have Scottish or Irish theme in food and wares. Free. www.scots-irish.org.
Homesteads Apple Festival: Homesteads Tower Museum and School grounds, junction of highways 127 and 68 in Crossville, Tenn., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). $1. 931-707-9476.
Knap-In: Old Stone Fort Archaeological Park, U.S. Highway 41, Manchester, Tenn. (take Exit 110 off I-24 and follow signs 1.5 miles to park entrance). Celebration includes hands-on demonstrations of flintknapping and other Stone Age survival skills, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CDT Saturday. Free. 931-723-5073, www.tnstateparks.com/OldStoneFort.
National Muscadine Festival: Downtown Sweetwater, Tenn., noon-5 p.m. today, all day Saturday. Free admission. 423-337-6979.
Oktoberfest: Helen, Ga., festhalle, 1074 Edelweiss Strasse, Helen, Ga. German music, food, drink and dancing, 6-10:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 6-11:30 p.m. Fridays, 1-11:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1-7 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 30. $7 weekdays, $8 Saturdays, free on Sundays. www.helenga.org/oktoberfest.
Rock Spring Show and Sell: Rock Spring United Methodist Church, Highway 95 at Peavine Road, Rock Spring, Ga., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. 706-764-1404.
Summer's Last Kiss: Hiawassee, Ga., town square, Main Street, Hiawassee, Ga., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 706-896-4966.
TACA Fall Craft Fair: Centennial Park, Nashville. Fine-art show sponsored by Tennessee Association of Craft Artists, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). Free. www.tennesseecrafts.org.
This weekend's fairs and festivals offer celebrations of German and Scots-Irish culture, fine arts and crafts at a scenic Nashville landmark, the adrenaline rush of hot-air balloon rides or just homespun country charm.
* Helen, Ga.'s signature event, Oktoberfest, opens this weekend and continues nightly through Oct. 30 in the Festhalle. Visitors can indulge in all things German in this scenic North Georgia village -- oompah bands, polkas, German food and beer. Lederhosen are optional.
* The biannual juried show of fine art sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists is today through Sunday in Nashville. Spread across the grounds of Centennial Park around the Parthenon, the location is as high-end as the work displayed.
* For good, old-fashioned fun, festivalgoers may want to check out the Hamilton County Fair at Chester Frost Park (see story on Page 22) and Balloons & Tunes in Rock Spring, Ga. It's possible to do both: Catch Balloons & Tunes either today or Saturday, then visit the county fair Sunday.
Country star Randy Houser is headlining the third Balloons & Tunes Festival in Rock Spring. This show is the deal of the weekend because the "Boots On" singer's concert is free with the festival's $10 admission. According to Stephanie Snodgrass with the Walker County Chamber of Commerce, a limited number of $35 VIP seats are still available today. Check the festival's website for these tickets and the full schedule of entertainment.
Opening for Houser will be Robby Hopkins Band from LaFayette, Ga. This band won a battle of the bands in July to earn the opening spot.
Festivalgoers should bring their cameras for photo-ops of colorful balloons floating overhead or illuminated from within at nightly Balloon Glows, which begin at 8 p.m. Tethered balloon rides are offered 5:30-7 p.m. today and 5-7 p.m. Saturday, priced at $10 for adults, $5 for children.
Another shot parents won't want to miss is the Chick-fil-A cow drop. They are scheduled for 7 p.m. today and at 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday.
"We have paragliders who drop toy, stuffed cows from the sky. The cows have little parachutes attached. The child who catches one takes it home. It's fun watching the kids chase them," she said.
Snodgrass said a new feature this year is tonight's Faith and Family Night, which is free although donations will be accepted for tornado relief.
Also new this year is a kids area divided by ages, she said. In the Toddler Zone, for ages 4 and younger, there will be a coloring station and small inflatable. Ages 5-12 can jump on six free inflatables in the Kids Zone. For teens, there is a zone just for ages 13 and up to play video games and laser tag, she said.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...