Visiting Bell Buckle, Tennessee, located about 50 miles southeast of Nashville, is like stepping into a time machine. Much of the town of approximately 500 people looks the same since the town was founded in 1852.
The town attracts tourists through its quaint shops, restaurants and its festivals held throughout the year. Recently, a friend and I attended the annual Moon Pie and RC Cola Festival, a street fair held the third Saturday in June. For those who did not grow up in the South, a moon pie is a circle shaped pastry of graham cracker and marshmallow dipped in chocolate , which has expanded to other flavors in modern times, while RC Cola, short for Royal Crown, is a cheaper version of Coca-Cola. Both were paired in the early 20th century to form a Southern delicacy.
Although the festival starts at 7 A.M. with a 10K run through the village, my friend and I got to the festival about 11:30 A.M., the time the parade started. The highlight of the parade was seeing the Moon Pie King and Queen being escorted through downtown on the back of decorated cars. After the parade my friend and I saw the emcees put on a comedy skit on the town stage and formerly introduce the Moon Pie King and Queen.
Seeing the different vendor booths after lunch was a lot of fun. One of my favorites was Jen’s Treasure’s, a vendor out of Eaglesville, Tennessee that sells organic dog treats and flea shampoos. I bought my dogs two half pound bags of different dog treats. The dogs loved the biscuits when I got back to Huntsville. Visit them at the Nashville Flea Market and be sure to get a punch card where the sixth half pound of dog treats bought is free.
Of course you are probably wondering where to get a Moon Pie and RC Cola at the Moon Pie Festival. Many of the antique stores in Bell Buckle sold fresh moon pies from the Moon Pie factory in Chattanooga and ice cold glass bottles of RC Cola. This combination was perfect for a hot day.
After taking a break from the heat in my air conditioned car, we saw the Moon Pie games, which featured events such as hula hooping while eating a moon pie and drinking an RC Cola and balancing cans of RC Cola on one’s head while walking to the finish line. After the winners were knighted at the Roundtable of Moonpies, the world’s largest Moon Pie was brought in that day from Chattanooga to celebrate the pastry’s 100th anniversary and it indeed tasted very fresh.
There are a few things to note from the perspective of someone with Aspergers about the Moon Pie and RC Cola Festival. First off, street festivals are a good way to introduce someone with the condition to crowds as they are often family friendly and less likely to have rowdy people in attendance. If you are worried about how crowds will affect you or a child with Aspergers, go in the afternoon as the crowds are lighter after lunch due to the heat. Everyone should be aware of their surroundings as vehicles do pass by, although very slowly, festival goers at the same time, probably due to the limited number of roads to bypass the village.
Speaking of crowds, during the cutting of the World’s Largest Moon Pie, it can become a free for all with people attempting to be the first to get a slice and get a picture of the tasty treat. It is best to let people go ahead and get a slice and wait for the line to die down before going up on the stage to get a slice. As stated in the last paragraph, the crowds are smaller in the afternoon so there is likely to be Moon Pie left over.
Since Moon Pies and the town itself is old fashioned, I am not sure of the food choices at the festival for someone who may have food allergies related to having Aspergers. Some of the food vendors may have gluten free items but I am not sure if Moon Pies are gluten-free themselves. Perhaps one could take a picnic lunch and have one by the stage if dietary restrictions are a concern.
Some other non-Asperger related tips include getting on the list early at the Bell Buckle Café or be prepared to wait a couple of hours to sit down. Instead, my friend and I ate lunch at the 82 Market and Diner in which I ate one of the best Philly Cheesesteaks ever and the French fries made of freshly cut potatoes. The meals at this diner can be eaten at the restaurant or ordered to go; the sandwich combo meals do include a drink.
The festival is free and is small enough that it is easy to get to and from the parking areas, which is $10 by the railroad tracks and $5 if you are willing to walk a little way on the south side of town. I also recommend packing a cooler with bottled water to cool off. Also, be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen.
Like with any festival, it takes planning and it takes a little bit of time to get adjusted to the number of people in one location. Bell Buckle is close enough to places like Huntsville, Nashville and Chattanooga that someone with Aspergers or a parent of a child with Aspergers could take a day trip to the village on days where there is not a festival, talk to the business owners, and get acclimated to the village so they will be prepared should they decide to come to the 2018 Moon Pie and RC Cola Festival.
I am glad that I took the time to visit this beautiful town and try something new. By following the tips given in this blog, the Moon Pie and RC Cola Festival can perhaps be a fun, inexpensive way to enjoy the summer for someone with or without Aspergers.
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