"Some festivals try to stay within a certain period of time in history, but we try to take our guests back without a certain period," said Marlan Petty, wife of Shane Petty, chief ranger for Tennessee State Parks.
"We've had a big crowd with busloads of school kids," she said. "It's been very successful."
Attendance was down last year because of rain.
With 800 students visiting Friday, 300 adults participating in the 5 and 10K races on Saturday morning, it seemed clear that with near-perfect weather, attendance was back to normal, or quite possibly greater than two years ago, Ranger Petty said Saturday morning.
Earl and Colleen Adcock of Unionville brought their ice cream making machine.
It's powered by a 1930 hit-and-miss internal combustion engine that was originally used to pump water for a herd of sheep, Earl Adcock said.
He mounted the engine on a wagon he made with wood from his scrap pile and used wheels from a horse-drawn hay rake to turn the ice cream in a metal bucket surrounded by ice in a wooden barrel. The barrel is part of a kit made by Mennonites and marketed by one of their neighbors.
"We've been doing this for about eight years," he said. "I decided I wanted to do this as a hobby and it kind of came into a business."
Asked if his business is growing fast enough to threaten Purity Ice Cream, Adcock replied, "No. We use a low-fat mix from Purity when we're out like this. We make it from scratch when we're at home."
Their home is on Stanley Road about five miles from the Marshall County line in Bedford County.
Normally, the Adcocks might be selling bowls of ice cream, but when they're at an event with so many school children, they soon find that some children have the money and others do not, so he told the organizers of A Step Back in Time that if they provided the bowls, he would furnish the ice cream.
Also at the park was Carol Mullins who moved to Marshall County so her 5-year-old son, Ty, could be in a class with fewer students at Chapel Hill Elementary School. As Mullins works at the park restaurant, she's studying everything she can about the park and its origins. That's how she and Joe Brooks met. He's been floating the Duck River for a decade and started his own history of the river and its immediate area. During his personal studies of the area's history, he's met Henry Horton's grandson named Henry Horton. He's also become acquainted with the Friends of Henry Horton State Park.
Teaching tomahawk throwing during the festival was Bill Griggs of Nashville. He learned several years ago while camping at David Crockett State Park.
"They were having a black powder shoot" for antique gun owners, Griggs said. Tomahawk throwing was also taught. He learned and is passing along the method that starts with holding the tomahawk's handle as if one were shaking hands.
Randall Wilson, county director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's service here, demonstrated how to conserve farm resources by braiding the plastic twine used to hold round bales of hay together.
While making rope from what otherwise would be waste -- and even a nuisance if it becomes tangled in a bush hog blade and axle - Wilson explains he uses four strands and where there are rough places, or when he needs to finish the rope, he melts the plastic with a candle so the rope never comes apart.
Dave Fredericks took his family to the festival and said, "It's a shame we can't have more events like this in the park."
Park Ranger Randy Whitworth agrees.
Attendance at this year's festival was the largest so far, Whitworth said, adding that one of the goals of those conducting the festival is to teach the kids to value their state parks.
Their motto: "No child left inside," he said.
Joyce Lee contributed to this story.