A couple of weekends ago, we took advantage of a break in the Texas monsoons for a quick drive through East Texas, starting from Dallas to Athens. It was Memorial Day weekend, a weekend that we had not originally planned to travel, but our cabin fever got the best of us and off we went.
As we pulled into Athens' historic courthouse square, we were greeted by crowds, vendor trailers and music, an unexpected sight. We parked the car and got out, realizing that the music we were hearing came not from a stage or a loud speaker, but from dozens of musicians scattered along the grounds with fiddles. Older people, younger people, men and women of different ethnicities - every corner of the block and under most of the trees there were solo, trio and small group musicians doing their thing. We had unexpectedly arrived at the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion weekend, and it was wonderful.
We couldn't stay long because we had other places to get to. But it was worth the stop not only for the experience, but also to remind us that the most meaningful road trip stops are often unplanned. In its 90th year, the fiddler's reunion is not new, and in fact attracts talent and visitors from around the world. So, our stop was also a reminder that sometimes what we call a "hidden gem" is really only hidden to us, and only because we aren't part of that community. Every place we visit is unique, and each one has its own story, history, culture and traditions that make it special. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time so that we can hear the music, too.
Read about some of our other favorite Athens stops here, and visit our interactive East Texas Road Trip map to help you on your way.
Photos by James Khattak