Knoxville Attraction: Chilhowee Park

Knoxville is home to plenty of park land. There’s the massive Concord Park out west, a 500-acre expanse of boating, fishing and sports fields. There’s Sequoyah Hills Park in the upscale Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, an 87-acre spread alongside the Tennessee River. There’s the zoo, with enough animals to enthrall even the most jaded of children. Then there’s Chilhowee Park.

Chilhowee Park is an 80-acre park located in East Knoxville. Found at 3301 Magnolia Avenue, it’s just a few hundred feet from the zoo (and, in fact, for a period in the middle part of the 20th century, it was a zoo). The spacious park hosts numerous events throughout the course of the year. A 4,500-seat amphitheater provides ample room for concerts. A science center called the East Tennessee Discovery Center is also located in the park.

Housed on the grounds of Chilhowee Park is the Jacob Building. For more than 60 years the building has attracted visitors to East Knoxville. The facility is a two-story exhibition hall. About 57,000 square feet in size, the Jacob Building hosts trade shows, wrestling matches, car shows, meetings and other events. The building received a $2.6 million renovation in 2004. The restoration added air conditioning, a brick façade to the exterior, insulation treatment and other improvements.

Additions have been made to the park itself, including new entrance gates and landscaping. The improvements are all part of the master plan for the park that was created in 1998 by architectural firm Bullock, Smith & Partners.

Chilhowee Park sees about 450,000 visitors annually. Many of those visitors come for the annual Tennessee Valley Fair. Held each September, the fair is a week and a half of excitement. There are a variety of exciting attractions at the fair, including rides, arts and crafts exhibits, shows, pet-ting zoos, contests and vendors. Think cotton candy, Guitar Hero tournaments, tractor pulls, clogging and competitive Krystal eating.

Chilhowee Park is also one of the hosts of the annual Kuumba Festival. The largest African-American cultural arts festival in East Tennessee, Kuumba was started in 1989. The two-day event is a celebration of arts, food, and crafts, and brings upwards of 200 entertainers, 100 craftspeo-ple and plenty of fun.

Besides the fair and Kuumba Festival, the park holds dozens of other concerts and events throughout the year. A car or motorcycle show is never far away. Wrestling events are common. If you prefer concerts, Bob Dylan, Village People, Lone Mountain Station and Chris Cagle have all played the venue.

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