Bell County Arts and Culture
Residents of Bell County celebrate its vast natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor adventure as well as the vibrant downtowns of Middlesboro and Pineville.
Bell County is home to state and national parks which serve not only as recreation and tourism destinations, but also as educational and cultural venues. Pine Mountain State Resort Park features over 15 miles of hiking trails, an 18-hole golf course, a lodge with rooms and cabins for rent, Civilian Conservation Corps stone architecture, the Mountain View Restaurant, a natural amphitheater, a zip line canopy tour and the famed Chain Rock overlooking Pineville. The park also provides educational programming, live music, theater and more. Pine Mountain hosts the Mountain Laurel Festival each May and the Great American Dulcimer Convention each September, and is home to the entire print collection of world-famous wildlife artist Ray Harm. Their restaurant also hosts food-based events such as Frontier Night Buffet where diners can experience unique foods such as elk, bison and frog legs.
At the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, visitors can walk in the footsteps of Daniel Boone and America’s early pioneers who established the area as a gateway to the western frontier. The park offers music and craft demonstrations, campfire programs and other activities in addition to hiking, horseback riding and back-country camping. Points of interest include the Pinnacle Overlook, the Tri-State marker, remnants of an iron foundry and furnace from the 1800’s, tours of Gap Cave and tours of an historic Appalachian Community at the Hensley Settlement.
The Bell County Historical Society houses many artifacts and exhibits pertaining to the county’s history, including the Middlesboro meteor crash, coal mining, American Indian artifacts and much more. They have a research library and a large collection of historic photographs and oral histories. Wait — did we say “meteor crash?” Yes, we did! Middlesboro is one of the few cities in the world built entirely within a meteorite crater!
Visitors can experience traditional arts and crafts, storytelling, dancing and foods at the Mountain Laurel Festival and the Cumberland Mountain Fall Festival each year, or enjoy country and bluegrass music at the Li’l Opry Crossroads in Middlesboro every weekend.
Folks in Bell County showcase their history and artistic traditions while also looking toward to the future. The arts are playing a pivotal role in community development. For example, the Selling to the World Initiative provides mentoring and workshops to support local creatives and small business owners start businesses using the internet or expand existing businesses to include ecommerce. Discover Downtown Middlesboro is working with building owners to make studio, co-working and retail space available at low cost for aspiring entrepreneurs and has won repeatedly a competitive national grant to bring the Levitt Amp Music Series to their town. In Pineville, the city’s Main Street Program renovated and now operates the Bell Theater which features events of all kinds, from classic movies to concerts and plays.
Click here to watch a video created by students at Bell County High School about local Christmas traditions.