EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: My Road Trip to AmericanaFest
I’ve never attended AmericanaFest down in Nashville. If you’re curious to know why, there’s a multitude of reasons: Buddy and Julie have never offered me their guest room and it costs too much to stay at a hotel. You’ve got to pay dues and register with an organization that’ll likely spam you for the rest of your life just like the Unitarian congregation I joined seven years ago does. The lines are too way long at the Pancake Pantry and I’m gluten-free. I can’t stand the smell of smoke, have quit drinking and hate to fly on commercial airlines because of a severe peanut allergy.
But this year is different. On a whim at the last possible moment, I had a change of heart. There was no time to submit a vacation request at work so I called my boss and explained I was taking an unexpected spiritual trip to my homeland. Our company is quite progressive, with a mission statement of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, so I was not challenged by my request but simply blessed with a Tibetan prayer.
I threw some clothes into my duffel and chose to bring the vintage Martin with the medium gauge strings just in case somebody needed a guitarist for a last-minute showcase or jam. From what I’ve heard, all thirteen hundred and fifty-two guitar pickers in Nashville have been booked far in advance, so one never knows and it’s best to be prepared. I plugged the cell phone into the dash on my car, opened up the Waze app, and told the lady to get me to Nashville by the fastest route.
Leaving New York City by dawn’s early light, I absorbed myself in listening to No Depression’s roots music playlist while occasionally munching on raw nuts and drinking kombucha tea. I didn’t need to stop once, and in about six hours I pulled into Nashville. Boy … that seemed so damn fast. Not spotting any Waffle Houses or long haired hipsters carrying banjos, I tapped the map and discovered I was just east of Niagara Falls in Nashville, New York.
I found a small group of friendly people walking together and fell in behind them. In a few minutes we entered the home of Pastor Fred Holdridge and his wife, Joanne. They graciously were hosting the 49th reunion for past and present Nashville residents, and after we shared a hearty laugh on my GPS error, I was asked to join the party. Everyone had brought a dish to the potluck, and I had a bag of baby carrots in my pocket to contribute so I didn’t feel out of place. Meat and rolls were provided by the hosts.
As the sun dipped down I was back in the car and heading south. I knew this was the right direction and I wasn’t fooled when I saw the road signs for Nashville, Pennsylvania, as I hopped onto the turnpike. By morning I felt my stomach rumble as I parked in front of the Buckeye Deli and Grocery. Knew I was in the right place when I saw a flyer near the for the Mohican Bluegrass Festival later in the week. Hell yeah — AmericanaFest, we have arrived.
I guess Buckeye should have been the tipoff: This was Nashville, Ohio. Damn. I begged Waze to please get me to the real Nashville and not the ones in Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, Missouri, Oregon, or Nevada.
By lunchtime I stopped for a quick bite at a food truck parked near the Maquoketa Municipal Airport, just east of Nashville, Iowa. I didn’t even bother to stop in town for a second. Fool me once, as they say. Knowing I was getting close to AmericanaFest, I kept driving. Since it would be late when I would arrive, I called ahead to book a room at the lovely Cornerstone Inn. The website advertised it as just a “few steps from Nashville’s treasured shopping and dining experiences, art galleries, and entertainment.”
It was dark when I got into town and drove past a restaurant named in honor of Neil Young: Harvest Moon Pizzeria. It finally felt las if I had arrived in Music City. Couldn’t wait to throw my stuff in the room and see some of these showcases I’ve always heard about. Over three hundred artists would be playing this year! When the hotel desk clerk told me that I had missed the weekly Monday Line Dance and mentioned that the Little Nashville Opry burned down ten years ago, I felt a little queasy.
I’m back home now. I decided to stay at the Cornerstone Inn for a few days and explore the sights around Nashville, Indiana. Turns out it is home to the Brown County Art Colony, and the town is quite the tourist magnet. There is a nice park to hike around, lots of galleries and antique shops, wineries, and restaurants. Not quite the fest I was hoping for, but as Americana as you might imagine.
Next year I plan on visiting Nashville in North Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas, and Georgia. I also heard there might be a town by that name in Tennessee.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.