I knew that before I could confidently say you should vote for Bell Buckle, I needed to visit. I made the drive this past Monday – it’s just a 50 minute drive down I24. Bell Buckle only has 391 residents (2000 census). You should venture to this town for a most enjoyable afternoon and dinner that will have you feeling a world away.
I drove to Bell Buckle by way of exit #97 and followed the signs – this is the scenic way to town. If you are in a hurry, get off on Exit #81, but you really only save about 5 minutes. I passed so many cows and horses that I found myself wishing my kids were with me. With flowering trees in abundance and daffodils simply EVERYWHERE, the drive was peaceful and beautiful. An added treat were all the spring foals and calves prancing around the fields. I think some were just hours old. I knew I had picked the right way to come when I passed by Happy Valley Lane. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to visit a street called Happy Valley Lane?
My first landmark I saw entering the town was The Webb School. The school is celebrating their 140th year and banners are everywhere. Next you’ll drive straight by the town center and this is where you park and wander into the little gift and antique stores.
First on my stop was Phillips General Store, owned by Jason Counce’s friend Billy Phillips. Billy was not there, but his dad was and he was delightful. He pointed out so many fun facts about the store. The store was a dry goods store in 1870 and many original collectibles and clothes now line the upper walls of the store. There are so many treasures up there that you’ll need to be sure to inquire about them when you visit. You can also buy FRESH Moon Pies. I had to ask how in the world they are considered fresh. Well – they are sent straight to the store from the factory. Within 48 hours to be exact and with no middle man. Yes, Mr. Phillips, that is a whole lot more fresh than the Exxon Station. I was so convinced that I left with a bag of Moon Pies which my family happily ate up. Since Bell Buckle does host the Moon Pie Festival, they should have factory direct freshness!
In the shop next door to Phillips, Treasures From The Hollow, you will find authentic rifles and bullets from the Civil War for sale. These are sold along side some primitive folk art that may just beckon your wallet open. There are several handmade sock monkeys for sale and you need to see this one:
And I just fell in love with these cowboy boot bird houses. I about fell over at the price tag: just $20. So, one of you readers who needs to send Christmas gifts that represent TN to all over the country, consider a cowboy boot bird house with an old TN license plate as the roof. If you decide to do this, pay Jason Atkins, the bird house artist, at least $30 for them; they are worth it.
Three places you MUST visit: The Bell Buckle Cafe, The Blue Bird Antiques & Ice Cream Parlor, and Coffeez by Us (which is located in Designz by You). At THE Cafe, you will find smoked pork chops and fried biscuits awaiting you. Add some apple butter and powered sugar to the biscuits and you have heaven on a plate. Dolly Parton favors the meatloaf and even put the recipe in her cookbook. Live music plays here each Friday and Saturday night. You never know who might show up….(Waylon Jennings and Wynonna Judd have in the past) but you are guaranteed great fun. And if the owner and her two customers I met on Monday, are any indication of the Bell Buckle sort, these are people with whom you will find time to linger and chat.
I had, in all seriousness, one of the best cups of coffee in my entire life at the Coffeez by Us. They even had Stevia for me to sweeten it with. Love that.
I never made it into the Blue Bird Ice Cream Parlor as I was afraid I would succumb to temptation and order something…
One quick fact- did you know that the Arts and Crafts show here each year draws 90,000 people? I found that staggering. It’s in October and we may have to check that out … For more information on all the festivals that Bell Buckle has, click here.
But, the 391 people who call Bell Buckle home should be proud. This town is darn cute but the people you talk to here are just salt of the earth. They are the type of folk who make you second guess your decision not to raise your family in a TN small town. But there is a one thing I can do: bring my family back and visit often as I can’t imagine a lovelier Saturday afternoon than shopping and climbing on the train caboose with music and ice cream afterward. Sounds mighty fine to this girl who has transplanted herself to Tennessee.