Chilhowee Park, 3301 E Magnolia Ave,
Chilhowee Park hosts numerous events during the year but is known by many for hosting the Tennessee Valley Fair, which has been a longstanding fixture on Knoxville’s late summer calendar.
Once resembling a small city of white buildings built during the Edwardian-era expositions (see below), they one by one were all removed or burned. The pool, long ago named “Lake Ottosee,” is much smaller than it used to be, and that remains of its golden era is the marble gazebo on a hilltop, built in 1910 and once used as a bandstand.
Created in late 1800s, first as Beaman Lake, Chilhowee Park became an iconic venue and destination for both Knoxvillians, regional, and national attendees. just prior to World War 1 for hosting three spectacular expositions: the Appalachian Exposition (held in 1910 and 1911), and the remarkable National Conservation Exposition, which attracted one million visitors over a two-month period in 1913.
After hosting a series of fall festivals, Chilhowee Park has been the home of the Tennessee Valley Fair since 1916, one of only a few of America’s annual fairs that has survived into the 21st century. The annual fair featuring amusement rides, music shows, and exhibits, as well as farmers’ award-winning produce and farm animals.
For years, Chilhowee Park featured a small amusement park, which during the Jim Crow era was whites only except for Aug. 8, celebrated in East Tennessee as Emancipation Day. However, blacks often attended shows in the Chilhowee Park auditorium.
The Jacob Building, built in 1941 to replace a previous, grander exhibition building destroyed in a 1938 fire, is used for presentations and exhibits today. However, in the 1940s and ’50s, it hosted an extraordinary series of jazz legends, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn, as well as and R&B performers such as Little Richard, and James Brown.
Located at Chilhowee Park is THE MUSE, a children’s science museum offering hands-on exhibits & activities, plus play spaces & a planetarium, and next door is Zoo Knoxville which dates back to 1935.