On the Labor Day weekend, we’d driven out to Tellico Plains Tennessee for dinner… As it turned out, we were also treated to something that we’d never seen before!
From the parking lot of the Tellicafe Restaurant in Tellico Plains we spotted these horse and mule teams pulling wagons down the road. I’d heard of a Corvette Rally, or even a Studebaker Rally, but this is apparently the equivalent event featuring wagons or caravans with horses and mules.
This is an annual event, one that we’d never heard of despite living the next county over and only 35 minutes away from Tellico Plains for the last 8+ years. A bit of research revealed that nightly entertainment is provided for the participants on Friday and Saturday nights. Admission for the general public this year was only $5.00 per person. Featured artists this year were the Moonshine Creek Band and Hunter Grayson.
To listen to the Moonshine Creek Band, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/moonshinecreekbluegrassband/videos/vb.560102744081061/1299076970183631/?type=2&theater.
To sample Hunter Grayson’s music, just go to
We took a bunch of horse and mule photos because we love horses and think that mules are one of the smartest, most interesting 4-legged creatures around…
…Are you looking at me?! Mules are so darn smart and they really know how to get us human’s attention too.
So, the questions were…just why and when did this whole wagon train thing started? The answers to these questions were partly practical and partly a lobbying effort…
The Tellico Plains Kiwanis Club, as part of their efforts to promote the creation of a Tennessee-North Carolina highway, organized the first wagon train on the 4th of July in 1958. On that date, 67 covered wagons and 325 horseback riders made the trek through the Smoky Mountains from Tellico Plains to Murphy North Carolina.
Such enthusiasm was generated that 5 years later, the trek was incorporated as a non-profit named the Western North Carolina Wagon Train, headquartered in Andrews North Carolina. Apparently this annual event or rally had some positive impact, because in 1967 construction began on what is now called the Cherohala Skyway, which now stretches from Tellico Plains Tennessee to Robbinsville North Carolina.
This annual event was originally known as the Tellico to Murphy Wagon Train. Apparently to the surprise of most folks, interest grew and people came from all around to participate and witness the spectacle. The original wagon train left Tellico Plains on an early morning in late June and they were greeted by spectators all along the route. On July 4th of 1958, they arrived in Murphy where they were welcomed by a cheering crowd of thousands of spectators.
For the next 5 years, the wagon train used the same route. Interest has spread so far that various routes have been traveled throughout the mountains, always ending with a parade on the 4th of July in a town to which they’ve been invited.
Traditionally, every 5 years, the wagon train travels the original route from Tellico Plains to Murphy. In recent years, due to the difficulty of getting clearance for routes through the mountains and securing campgrounds for the event, the Wagon Train has stayed in Andrews North Carolina and staged their July 4th parade in that town.
…More mules checking out Laurie as she took their picture.
In 1963, the wagon train group was incorporated as a non-profit corporation…the Western North Carolina Wagon Train…with their headquarters in Andrews North Carolina. The board of directors is made up of members from North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and North Georgia. In 2004, the organization officially expanded their original mission to include the encouragement and promotion of fair treatment of equine livestock.
Laurie captured this team of horse pulling a wagon down the street in our direction by shooting the photo through our windshield. Very cool!
If you would like to view a video of the 2011 July 4th Wagon Train Parade through downtown Tellico Plains, just click on the following link: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=tellico+plains+wagon+train&view=detail&mid=B34D8B21DE9D8332E732B34D8B21DE9D8332E732&FORM=VIRE.
This year’s Labor Day Parade, (which we weren’t aware of), formed up at the campgrounds and proceeded through downtown Tellico Plains. Anyone could participate including floats, wagons, horse, mules, tractors, four-wheelers, antique cars, emergency vehicles, etc. The William Blount High School Marching Band led the way and local TV coverage was provided by WBIR, Knoxville’s NBC affiliate.
This is one of the 2 free camp grounds being used by the Wagon Train participants. In this case, it’s the late Charles Hall’s field across from the Hardee’s Restaurant, (and next to Tellicafe, where we ate dinner), in Tellico Plains. Note the mountains in the background…
This is the other camp ground that was available for the wagon train. It was also loaned to them free of charge and a local farmer furnished the water needed for the visitors as well as their livestock.
This is one of the longest lived wagon train events in the United States. This was its 60th anniversary!
While the participants in these photos have trucked their horses, mules and wagons across the mountains to Tellico Plains, many others apparently were on the way via the ‘old fashioned’ method…by wagon across the mountains.
This event was listed as the Second Annual Tellico Plains Tennessee Labor Day Ride. The trek wasn’t for sissies. It began in North Carolina on August 31st. At the end of the first day, the wagon train had covered 14 miles and spent the night at Charlie’s Mountain.
On September 2nd, they covered another 13 miles…4 of it paved and 4 on gravel (with a 10 – 12% grade), stopping at Old Furnace. The 3rd day was along another 13 mile route with 6 miles paved and 7 miles on gravel. They stopped at Conesaga Falls. On Labor Day, this group was scheduled to have a short ride into Tellico Plains for the parade at 10 AM.
We included this photo because we liked the more traditional ‘look’ of this covered wagon…
…and I’m ending this post with another team of mules, one of which is giving Laurie the ‘eye’.
We will put this event on our calendar for 2018! Between the 4-legged attractions and the music, it is not to be missed when it comes around again. To learn more about the Wagon Train as well as future events, you can go to the organization’s website at http://www.wncwagontrainnc.com/.
That’s about it for now! Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie