Your Guide to Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2021

So, you’re into music.

How did we know? Well, you either stumbled across this article while googling festivals or, you found it because you’re fascinated by the Americana Music Triangle. (As someone who only listened to bluegrass as a child because that’s all her dad would load onto her iPod Shuffle—NSYNC who?*—this writer can relate.)

Either way, it’s safe to say you’re tuned into the music scene. And while there are plenty of great performances happening all over town at any given moment—see: the Mockingbird TheaterPuckett’s of Leiper’s Fork, and The Whiskey Room Liveto name a few—Franklin’s got something queued up for September that you need to add to your playlist, err, itinerary. Drumroll, please…

The Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival!

In its seventh year, this two-day, family-friendly festival brands itself a music mecca. And those who attend year after year would agree. But before you pull out your wallet and snag that VIP Village pass, you probably want to know: When is it, where is it held, and what type of music will I hear? Luckily, we’ve got the answers right here.

When is the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival?

Saturday, September 25, and Sunday, September 26. Don’t worry; just because you’ll be in a field doesn’t mean you’ll miss seeing your favorite team take theirs. You can swing by the festival’s Craft Beer Hall to find out the score. And attendees with VIP passes have access to the VIP Village Pavilion, which features live NFL and college football games and an open bar.

Where will the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival be Held?

The Park at Harlinsdale Farm. Once home to the Tennessee Walking Horse Midnight Sun, the first repeat World Grand Champion, bucolic Harlinsdale Farm is now a public park. The 200-acre farm features a four-acre dog park, three-acre pond, 5k track, and an equestrian trail. Normally, activities here are passive. Think, watching stunning sunsets unfold over the pond—just like the one that inspired Pilgrimage founder Kevin Griffin to chase his dream of hosting the festival. But, despite the park’s peaceful nature, when Pilgrimage rolls around, things get loud, usually on the Midnight Sun stage. Yep, the main stage’s moniker pays homage to our favorite stallion.

What type of music will be at the festival?

Speaking of stages, Pilgrimage’s stages have been host to alt-country, bluegrass, gospel, indie, jazz, R&B, and rock ‘n’ roll musicians, and this year is no different. The 2021 lineup includes (but is certainly not limited to) Dave Matthews Band, The Black Keys, Maren Morris, Cage The Elephant, Khruangbin, Black Pumas, Amos Lee, Tanya Tucker, Houndmouth, and Jamestown Revival.

You may remember us mentioning the words “family-friendly.” While you likely played “Crash Into Me” on repeat in 1996, your kids probably have no clue what a portable CD player is. That’s why the Lil’ Pilgrims Family Stage will be featuring Ralph Covert, The Farmer & Adele, and School of Rock, among others.

If any of those genres or artists struck a chord with you, read on. While this festival is known for its lineup, the fun doesn’t stop at the stage.  

Your Backstage Pass 

You have the rock ‘n’ roll spirit, but you still like a plan. And you know what? We respect that. Here’s your backstage pass to what to expect this year.

First things first: COVID-19. To attend the festival, you’ll need to present proof of vaccination or negative test results. If you’re going with the latter, be sure to take the test within 48 hours before you arrive. Let’s all stay safe (and groovy). Now, on with the show!

What kind of food and drink will be at the festival?

Belting out the lyrics to your favorite song can work up an appetite. That’s when you’ll want to follow sizzling smells and the sound of a DJ’s mix wafting from the South Paddock. Here you’ll find Farm-to-Turntable, a collection of 16 local food trucks. Or, you can wander the sprawling festival grounds to choose from one of more than 40 restaurants and cafes serving cuisine that ranges from grain bowls to oyster po’boys.

If you’ve been scanning this article to find out more about the Craft Beer Hall (Hey, scroll back up! There’s some stuff you’ll want to know up there.), you’ve found it. This tented area features multiple bars, 30 taps, and, yes, LED screens broadcasting the South’s favorite sport.

And you won’t want to skip a tasting in the beer garden—a new and welcome addition to Pilgrimage. If beer isn’t your thing, there’s wine, frozen cocktails, and spirits available. Basically, if you can use it for a toast, they’re serving it. Here’s to seven years of Pilgrimage.

What other activities are happening at the festival? 

Music isn’t the only art form featured during this festival. Be sure to trot through the aptly named Art Barn, a gallery that adds visual vibrancy to your weekend of audio experiences. Then mosey to the Makers Village, where you can buy locally made souvenirs for your friends who (didn’t read this article and) didn’t get tickets.

What is Community Village?

In between dancing with friends, both old and new, you’ll want to swing by the Community Village. You’re encouraged to chat with Pilgrimage’s partner organizations and learn how you can lend a hand and support a worthy cause (or two, or three).

Then boogie on over to the Americana Music Triangle Experience to hear stories from other musical and historical cities. While you’re there, check out the backdrop curated by “American Pickers” and Antique Archaeology, and peruse the church pews and photo wall. Oh, and you have to stop by and hang out with us in the Visit Franklin area, where you can take a selfie with Jasper, a blue Volkswagen van turned photo booth created by our buddies at InstaBurst.

Once the festival’s final notes have drifted off into the fall air, you’ll head back to town to unwind from your action-packed weekend. Go for a stroll along a Natchez Trace trail, relax in a rocking chair on one of our many porches, and enjoy just one more show.

Now that you know what to expect, buy your tickets, get out your suitcase, pop on a Franklin-inspired playlist, and start packing for your Pilgrimage. We’ll see you—and be ready to sing along with you—there.

*By the way, Justin Timberlake performed during this very festival in 2017, so there really is something for everyone at Pilgrimage. Also, Justin, if you’re reading this, my dad no longer makes my playlists.)

Posted in

Madison Sullivan