From its humble beginnings as the one day Azalea Festival in 1982, the Secret City Festival is evolving into one of the premier events in East Tennessee. This weeklong celebration of Oak Ridge’s past, present, and future includes the largest multi-battle WWII reenactment in the South, concerts by nationally acclaimed musicians, antique and fine arts vendors, historical exhibitions, movie screenings, cultural performances, a children’s festival and more. The best part is, it’s all free to the public!
To understand the festival, you must first understand the city. Oak Ridge is a city built of war, living for peace, and growing through science. In the early 1940’s, while Hitler and the Germans struggled to find the fuel source for a weapon that would give them the ultimate power, the United States was in the same race against time. In 1942, when thousands of soldiers were battling on the front lines across Europe, the U.S. government was looking for a site where they could build a top-secret city that would be used to create the world’s first Atomic Bomb. That city, which was enclosed behind a fence from 1942 until 1949 and was not even on a map until 1949, is now called Oak Ridge. It stands as a living testimony to the hard work, secrecy, and insurmountable courage of a people whose hope of ending the war gave them the strength they needed to leave their families behind and travel to a city that didn’t exist to work on a top-secret mission called the Manhattan Project.