In the pre-COVID era, there was a deluge of mutli-day “destination festivals” in America, although most of them entailed camping out at festival grounds. But there has also been a wave of more family-friendly festivals as well, and one of the more interesting ones is Tennessee’s Pilgrimage Festival, a multi-genre event that actually promotes local businesses (local hotels and campgrounds benefit from the fact that it isn’t an on-site camping event).
The festival, which returns this year and takes place September 25 and 26 in Franklin, Tennessee, just a few miles from Nashville. Headliners include Maren Morris, the Dave Matthews Band, the Black Keys, Cage The Elephant, the Black Pumas, Valerie June, the Marcus King Band and Better Than Ezra.
Pilgrimage was actually co-founded by Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin, who lives in Nashville. He told us how he got the idea for the event. “In 2013, the day after Thanksgiving, I took a run from my house and a mile later I found myself out at the Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, Tennessee. It’s 16 miles from downtown Nashville and Franklin is arguably the coolest town in America, according to Garden and Gun and Southern Living and other hipster location magazines.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this farm is a two hundred and fifty-eight-acre farm on the historic register. And I and I talked with buddies about starting a festival that was like Jazzfest in New Orleans. And that celebrated the best of a region: the food, the culture, the artisans, the merchants. And we decided to do that for Middle Tennessee. And the biggest moment of truth was going to GoDaddy and typing in ‘pilgrimage festival dot com’… and it was available!”
He continues, “We wanted to make a festival that was family friendly and multi-genre. Yeah, you can party at Bonnaroo or Coachella. But now you have kids and you want a little more refined experience and there is a market for that because even in 2014 it was pretty saturated festival market. But we found our lane and here we are in 2021. Over the years, we’ve had Justin Timberlake, Willie Nelson, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Keith Urban… it has turned into such a beautiful experience. There’s a big charitable component to it. We support a lot of charities, including Musicares. So it started as a labor of love, something I wanted to give to the community. And it’s just it’s been a great journey that feeds everything I do.”
He notes that there have been other benefits to working on a festival as well: “Pilgrimage is opened doors for me as a songwriter. I started writing with the Record Company,” he says, mentioning their recent single, “How High.”
General Admission and VIP packages are still available for the festival; for more information, go to their site.