You’ve got shady oak trees; cool mountain breezes; gently rolling streams giving way to waterfalls; gazing at the stars in the clear spring sky over dinner and a glass of wine. . . but still something is missing: music.
Music has always thrived in Appalachia, and the city of Helen does its part to showcase regional-gone-national talent each year. This month, we’re hosting the Alpine Helen Songwriters Festival, Friday, March 19th from 4pm – 10pm and Saturday, March 20th from Noon – 10pm. Reclaim the romance of spring this year by dining at our most iconic restaurants and enjoying a full weekend getaway around this unique event.
Many of the folk and country songs you grew up listening to weren’t written by the artists who became famous performing them. They were written by people more like yourself, dealing with everyday ups, downs, and observations with songcraft. Songwriting comes up from the people. With our festival, you get a rare opportunity to hear songwriters play small venues, sharing their stories through song. The songwriters festival will be hosted at three food-famed venues that represent the Bavarian and Blue Ridge in equal parts: Bandshell, Hofebrauhaus, and Cowboys and Angels.
Hear from the songwriters who wrote the soundtrack for the 80s, 90s, and early aughts. Look at some of the artists our roster performers have made famous with their songwriting skills!
● Greg Crowe – Montgomery Gentry, Sammy Kershaw, Lonestar
● Dave Gibson – Tim McGraw, Confederate Railroad
● Becky Hobbs – George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Alabama
● Wil Nance – Brad Paisley, John Michael Montgomery
● Chancie Neal – Platinum selling self-performed “Rodeo Money” (2019)
● Pete Sallis – Ronnie Dunn, “Shut Up and Fish”
● Mark Sherill – Charlie Rich, John Anderson, Blake Shelton (“Ol Red”)
And also hear from those who are busy writing the hits of tomorrow:
● Trey Teem
● Emma Zinck
● Angela Rozman
But what to do when you aren’t listening to music? Early spring in Helen presents numerous ways to build relaxing days in nature and town.
Nothing pairs with the perfect Americana folk song like the Blue Ridge Mountains. While you’re here, get the freshest air at some of the region’s most dramatic waterfalls. Anna Ruby Falls is an easy one-mile walk down a paved trail to see a double-cascading fall down several drops of dozens of feet each. It’s a great way to kick off the day. And if this just whets your appetite for morning mist, Dukes Creek Falls and Ravens Cliff Falls are just short drives away as well.
After some outdoorsy exploration, refuel at Hofer’s famous German bakery, known for rich, homestyle breakfasts and old-world pastries.
Once you’ve got some calories to burn, do some canoeing and/or fishing with a view at Unicoi State Park and have yourself a midday picnic in view of Yonah Mountain. This is the best time of year for it.
Then, visit historic Hardman Farm, just five minutes away to see an example of the elaborate 1870s Italianate architecture style—a preserved relic of the bygone logging and gold rush eras. You can also see one of the largest Mississippian Indian Mounds on the very same property.
Helen offers the visual escape of the mountains and the charm of 18th century Bavaria: a tightly packed town of multi-gabled roofs, exposed beams, and white stucco walls (all of which are wildly Insta-worthy!). Enjoy some 200 shops in two walkable square miles—you’ll discover glass blowers, toy makers, homemade candy shops, world souvenirs, and an array of watering holes between stops.
German food is made for festivity! Let’s talk about the three venues coordinating the Songwriters Festival.
Hofbrauhaus: This is your go-to stop for authentic German cuisine. For a quick meal, grab a knockwurst with a potato cake on the side. Advance another level in formality with the variety of schnitzels made from pork, veal or chicken. Finally, you could go all in with something like a hearty German meatloaf “Falscher Harr,” slow cooked with house-made gravy.
Bandshell: Conveniently located on River Street in Downtown Helen, Bandshell is a favorite for outdoor entertainment all year long. Of course, the merriment goes next level during the annual Songwriters Festival! Check out a soul-stirring performance here, then wander to local shops and candy stores for a sweet pick-me-up.
Cowboys & Angels: A steakhouse with options from burgers to filets and festival-worthy appetizers you won’t find anywhere else: crab cakes, fried green tomatoes, smoked gouda pimento cheese pork, and belly. The weather is so great this time of year for the exposed-beam Alpine patio, you may never want to leave!
Don’t miss this artistic outpouring in the only German village Down South. For info on comfy lodging to rest and reset in between all the food and fun, click here today!