The Pliocene Era & Little Chicago

Most of the trips I have made to Johnson City, TN were for a punk or metal show at the Hideaway, and there was little time to explore. A new exhibit has opened at the Gray Fossil Site and I was craving Rahmschnitzel from Freiburg’s German Restaurant, so I ventured out to explore Johnson City in the day time.

My song for this entry is The New Lost City Ramblers’ with “Johnson City”

Little Chicago
Johnson City is also known as Little Chicago because Al Capone and his gangsters frequented the area back in the 1920s. The city is located about midways between Chicago and Miami, and had a well-connected railway stop to other cities that were part of the moonshine distilling ring during Prohibition.


The Little Chicago Festival is held during August each year (dates vary) and spans all across the downtown area.


The Johnson City Farmers Market


The vendor alley has Hungarian, Korean, Southern, and Chinese food, pizza, kettle corn, pastries, dog treats, and one truck that specializes in fried EVERYTHING.



The Little City Roller Girls can often be seeing practice roller derby bouts around town.


There was an auto show all along the boulevard, but with only a few real classics.


Founders Park is a nice urban park and greenway with rock structures, a creek flowing through it, and sculpture installations on both sides.



Creek’s a little low after weeks of highs over 90 F


Downtown streets are lined with artisan, spiritual and fair trade goods, art, gifts, a comic book shop, and a really awesome barber shop+all around man store.


There is some irony that I would find the things I found today, but that is another story.


Seeker notebook, sage bundle, and sacred jade from Atlantis


I wish the Fouled Anchor had a traveling operation. Guys- get your haircut, beard oiled and trimmed, buy yourself a nice shirt and some new boots. All at the same place. They make it so easy.


My favourite random discovery was this drawing of a woman with red lips, black hair, bangs, and cat-eye makeup, standing under the German flag. This is basically me in acrylic paint. Two different people stopped to ask if someone had painted me while I was taking a photo.



Super cute street vendor called Sweet & Dirty’s.


Train mural next to the Hideaway. It continues to the left (this is only maybe one third).

The Hideaway is a punk and rock dive bar that has hosted some really great shows over the years.


Awesome MLK stencil mural and graffiti art



Milling About the Pliocene
The Natural History Museum at the Gray Fossil Site presents the fossils and skeletons of tapirs, saber tooth cats, rhinoceroses, red pandas, alligators, plants, and other creatures that once roamed the area.

This fossil site formed as a result of an underground limestone cave that collapsed into a massive sinkhole, and eventually served as a water reservoir during the Pliocene epoch between four and seven million years ago.

Under those ideal conditions, the damp and mineral rich soil preserved these remains quite well.


A rhino (top left and below), an alligator (to the left), and some saber tooth cats above. 


An impressive skeleton of the giant short-faced bear towers over my 6′ tall frame. This bear was the largest carnivore in North America during the Ice Age.


At last, I made it to Freiburg’s German Restaurant.


Dinner doesn’t get much better for me than an icy German beer and a chicken cutlet baked crisp and covered in cheesy caramelized onions.


Edit: I am looking forward to seeing how the festival and the city itself has changed in the last few years since I was there. Anyone have recommendations for things I missed?

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One thought on “The Pliocene Era & Little Chicago

  1. Pingback: Jonesborough; Abolition, Tall Tales, and Whiskey in Tennessee’s Oldest Town | Fernweh

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