Covered Bridge Days finishes 56th year
Published 11:33 am Monday, September 25, 2023
BY C.Y. PETERS
In the heart of Elizabethton, there stands an iconic covered bridge, an enduring symbol of the town’s rich musical heritage. It was here, across from the wooden canopy, that the magic of country music came alive, weaving a tapestry of memories through the years.
My very first memory of this cherished tradition was etched in the hauntingly beautiful voice of Dena Layne, singing “How Far is Heaven.” Her performance left an indelible mark on my soul, igniting a lifelong love affair with the melodies that echoed across the bridge.
Fast forward to September 2023, and the bridge still resounded with the sweet strains of country music. Now a stage has been built in the park. Dena Layne, though seasoned by the years, was as captivating as ever, her rendition of “She Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” carrying the weight of experience and emotion.
The tradition of covered bridge singing had its origins in June 1967, a week-long celebration that brought the town to life. It featured not only country music but also the soul-soothing sounds of bluegrass and the uplifting harmonies of gospel music, making it a musical extravaganza like no other.
For six unforgettable days, from 6 p.m. until nearly 11 p.m., the town was alive with melodies. Local performers, often unsung heroes of their craft, would step onto the stage, casting their own enchanting spells on the gathered crowd. But it was Friday and Saturday nights that held a special place in everyone’s hearts, when the main event unfolded beneath the bridge’s rustic charm.
One name that had become synonymous with Elizabethton’s covered bridge singing was Marlow Tackett. With roots in nearby Stoney Creek and nightclubs in Pikeville, Ky., he was a musical legend sought after by all. His performances were electric, and they drew fans from far and wide, becoming the stuff of legends themselves.
As the bridge celebrated 56 years of enchanting music in downtown Elizabethton, it had become more than just a place; it was a living testament to the enduring spirit of country music. The event, once held in June, had gracefully transitioned to September, adapting to the changing rhythms of time, just as the melodies on the bridge continued to do. It was a tradition that bound generations together, uniting the past, present, and future under the timeless spell of country music.
Elizabethton ParkS and Rec had outdone themselves with Covered Bridge Days. Their remarkable job brought big stars and tribute bands to the small town, transforming it into a hub of entertainment. Families lounged on blankets, swaying to timeless tunes. The sweet aroma of the food and children’s laughter blended with the music. It was a weekend etched into memory, where a tight-knit community revealed in the glitz and glamor, coming together under the starlit sky to celebrate the magic that the Elizabethton ParkS and Rec team had conjured.