After a week of scorching heat in Middle Tennessee, Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival kicked off fall in Franklin with sunny afternoons punctuated by picturesque sunset performances. The event drew 17,000 attendees for two nearly 12-hour days of rollicking music, local arts and culture, and family-friendly fun.
Pilgrimage was first held in 2015 and has carved out a niche as a laidback event for music lovers who have retired from the camping festival circuit. That means it's a prime spot for both older fans and families like Oswaldo and Laura Henriquez, who brought their daughters, Eliana, 7, and Lucia, 5, from Atlanta. Saturday, they hung out around the Lil' Pilgrims stage at the Park at Harlinsdale Farm and caught jaunty singalong performances and kid-minded activities before watching Brandi Carlile's headlining performance.
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"We were actually going to go solo and then saw the program and realized there was a little kids area," Laura Henriquez said. "They've done really well."
It's a change for the couple, who said they have fond memories of going to music festivals before they had kids but are now making new memories with their girls. Oswaldo said it was important to show his daughters how fun big live events can be since many of their early memories are colored by the coronavirus pandemic.
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"After the pandemic, to see people for them is good," Oswaldo said. "People get together and enjoy stuff together. It's not just screen time in the house with masks."
Quinn Lohse, a Franklin high schooler, said he's gone to every Pilgrimage since 2015 − even when he was so young that his parents made him go home and go to bed before the late acts went onstage. He said this year's lineup wasn't his favorite compared to 2019, which brought The Killers, Foo Fighters and Keith Urban, but was happy to see a return to normal after the event was canceled in 2020 and operated with COVID-19 protocols in 2021.
"Organization-wise, it's definitely a lot better," Lohse said. "There's definitely a lot more events, more things to do around here than last year.
One popular area was the Americana Music Triangle Experience tent, which hosted lower-key sets by string and roots performers, storytelling and conversations about music history, and a performance by acclaimed music producer Butch Walker.
Sunday morning, the area hosted a Southern Gospel church service led by several singers, including Franklin natives Michael Rix and Quintavious Johnson. Johnson, who started his career in the 2014 season of "America's Got Talent," gave a brief sermon before leading a singalong of "This Little Light of Mine."
"When I read in the scriptures, it talks about the melody in your heart," Johnson said, prepping his "congregation" for a day filled with song. "Sometimes, there's things that call for no words. You don't even have a word for what you feel, and that's that melody in your heart, amen?"
Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton, Jon Batiste and The Avett Brothers headlined the festival, which hosted performances across five stages. Several performers with Tennessee ties also took the stage, from Lake Street Dive (frontwoman Rachael Price was raised in Hendersonville) to Lennon Stella (who portrayed Maddie Conrad on the ABC-CMT drama "Nashville") to smaller local acts.
Cole Villena covers Williamson County at The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network — Tennessee. Reach Cole at email@example.com or 615-925-0493. Follow Cole on Twitter at @ColeVillena and on Instagram at @CVinTennessee.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2022: 17,000 join in Franklin