Last year was Franklin’s first ever Pilgrimage Festival, and I skipped it out of fall fatigue. Is it just me, or is September the busiest month of the year? Pair that with the crazy amount of events and happenings in Nashville, and I just didn’t even consider going to Pilgrimage.
I almost skipped this year, too, given that I’ve only been back from Europe two weeks, am still in catch-up mode and left again this morning for another 12 (possibly 18) days away. But then George Dickel, my hometown distillery, contacted me about a Porch Bash celebrating their upgraded facility down in Cascade Hollow on the outskirts of Tullahoma, and suddenly, I was interested in making the Pilgrimage.
Why? Well, the artist lineup was pretty amazing to start with. Some of my absolute favorites made the cut this year: Grace Potter, Brothers Osborne, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell and others. I’d just seen Kacey earlier this week at her Christmas album preview—and Grace earlier this summer and Jason twice already this year—but I just can’t get enough.
photo courtesy of Universal Music Group and Peyton Hoge
But what really sold me is that Dickel offered each of us influencers a weekend-long experience that included a social media scavenger hunt; for every task we completed, they’d donate $100 to the local charity of our choice. Genius, right? Well, you’ve probably realized SVV and I are marginally dog-obsessed, and we love what the East C.A.N. rescue is doing for the stray pet population of Nashville, so there was no second thought to who we’d be representing.
The weekend kicked off with a VIP party at the Dickel distillery, possibly the only press event I’ve ever attended in my hometown! It was fun seeing familiar faces and all they’ve done to turn Dickel into a worthy contender of Jack. Their product has always been superior—while I love the Jack distillery experience, the whiskey itself is meh—and now there’s a gorgeous facility to match in Cascade Hollow. It’s really stunning to see the difference in tourism levels compared with Lynchburg, and more than likely right now you’ll have most of the grounds to yourself from 9am-430pm Monday-Saturday. It’s $10 for the extended tour (which includes tastings) and free for everything else.
Bonus: It’s much closer to the interstate—that’s I-24 for those of you not from here and whizzing through the center of my state—and just 15 minutes down in the holler.
As the night progressed, we checked off items from our list. Native Run kicking off the party. Check. Charlie Worsham taking the stage. Check. Special 17-year in the newly upgraded visitor’s center. Check. A beauty shot from the barrel house. Check check.
It was such a fun night full of food and music and time with friends we don’t get to see nearly enough.
On Saturday morning, SVV and I planned to get up early, run a 5K for charity, then head on over to Pilgrimage for the day. Welllll, Mother Nature had other plans—he woke up covered from eyelid to knee with poison sumac—and we played hooky for the lake instead, missing out on my beloved Grace Potter.
On Sunday, he wasn’t any better, so I headed up there alone. Or rather with the accompaniment of my fill-in husband, Matt.
As a first-timer, what struck me as immediately amazing about a festival like Pilgrimage was the access and ease of reaching the grounds. We paid $10 to park at the Factory at Franklin, picked up our passes there, then walked directly across the street to the festival, the Park at Harlinsdale Farm. It couldn’t have been any easier or more streamlined.
We had VIP bands so we immediately went to the VIP tent to check out the Dickel slushies before making our way over to Anderson East to check his set out on the main stage.
Then, we went and caught Kacey Musgraves’ set, who was flawless as always, keeping the audience entertained with covers of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” in addition to all her own hits.
There were plenty of food and beverage options for purchase, but given I was there from around 1:30 to 6:30, I only snacked on some Jim ‘n Nick’s BBQ and kept hydrated with Dickel; I didn’t try any of the vendors in the merch area. We also caught Brothers Osborne, my favorite act in country music hands down, as well as Jason Isbell and a few other smaller shows.
But mainly, we sat on the lawn with friends, enjoyed the lingering days of Tennessee summer and marveled at just how good we have it.
There’s never a day I regret having moved back to Tennessee, and weekends like Pilgrimage really drive that sentiment home.