Coke Ovens Bluegrass Festival in rural Dunlap, Tennessee honors long vanished era of coal mining

Jul 22, 2016

Dunlap, Tennessee historian and musician, Everett Brown
Credit Thomas Wilmer

 Dunlap, Tennessee is just a half hour drive from Chattanooga, but it’s a world apart.

For close to a century, coal mining was the driver here in the rural community of Dunlap, Tennessee, but by the early 1990's the coal industry was history. The old coke ovens, built in 1902 remain as decaying relics of a time when more than 400 locals were employed in the mines.

In homage to Dunlap’s past, the annual Coke Ovens Bluegrass Festival was created to honor the town’s heritage, and serves as a primary funding source for the Sequatchie Valley Historical Society. The little town of Dunlap also decided collectively to clean up the town’s abandoned, Dead Dog Garbage Dump back in the 1980s—today the sprawling, grass covered, tree shrouded Coke Ovens Park is a showcase of transformation and restoration of a once blighted area, and it’s the home of the annual Coke Ovens Bluegrass Festival.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in the heartland town of Dunlap for a visit with 77 year-old fiddler and historian, Everett Brown. Wilmer was in the company of fellow travel journalist, Joy Lucius from Tupelo, Mississippi where she’s also Associate to the Pastor at the Tupelo Word of Life Church.   

A "Fiddle" at Dunlap Tennessee's historical museum
Credit Thomas Wilmer
2016 Coke Ovens Bluegrass Festival
Credit Thomas Wilmer