An hour’s drive from Nashville along scenic back roads with rolling hills and farm pastures lies Bell Buckle, Tennessee… the quintessential small town, with it’s quaint shops and it’s annual RC Cola – MoonPie festival.
The origin of the town’s name has been lost in time though one story says that is from one of the first men to travel through the area, who found a tree with carvings of a cowbell and buckle that was possibly carved by Native Americans as a warning to stay away. Another involves the bell and buckle being used to mark the area as a good pasture. Either way, the nearby creek was named Bell Buckle Creek and later the town took on the name.
The town was settled in the 1800’s and grew once the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad came through the area in 1852. It reached its peak population of more than 1,000 after 1870 when it became a major stockyard for the railroad. Later it went through various ebbs and flows with a population of 393 in 1975 when Molly Mee saluted her hometown of Bell Buckle on Hee Haw and it’s current population of 519 as of 2016.
On parking, you’ll stroll among it’s many shops like Phillips General Store & Antiques where you can find a variety of items from vintage clothing with the original price tags and collectors items among its display cases…. may from pre-1900s. Other antique stores include Hilltop Antiques, and Everybody’s Antiques & More.
A personal favorite and highlight of the trip is another of Bell Buckle’s historic shops, Blue Bird Antiques & Ice Cream Parlor, where you’ll find old-fashioned sodas, banana splits and other treats.
The shop has a vintage feel and the ice cream… delicious!
Though Bell Buckle is known for it’s small town charm and shops, it’s also become a draw for Tennesseans during its annual RC-Moon Pie Festival on the third Saturday of June. Visitors who attend find music, cloggers, a multitude of contests, along with MoonPie games that occur throughout the day along with a parade… all paying homage to the southern favorites that are it’s namesake.
The festival originated in 1994 when the Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce started looking for ideas to increase foot traffic during the hot summer months. The festival began as a way to celebrate the 75 anniversary of the MoonPie and to their surprised it became an annual event that has been featured on various media outlets from the Travel Channel, to Southern Living, the Food Network Magazine, USA today, and others.
The festival begins with the RC-MoonPie 10 Mile Run which is a certified race on a challenging course. Once the runners are cheered in the festival begins.
Whether it’s for the RC-MoonPie festival or just a fun road trip (and some ice cream at Blue Bird Antiques & Ice Cream Parlor!), make a visit to Bell Buckle.