Several thousand history fans streamed into downtown Knoxville on Saturday for the 9th annual East Tennessee History fair.

Given the recent controversy surrounding Confederate statues and monuments, some say this year's fair is the most important yet because it offers a positive, interactive way for people to learn more about East Tennessee's role in America's past.

Visitors interacted with dozens of reenactors spanning 300 years of Tennessee history.

"It's a neutral setting. There's no politics. There're no monuments, there're no statues, there're no flags," Civil War reenactor William Patton said. "There's nothing to lose at this event. It's just education and learning."

East Tennessee Historical Society executive director Cherel Henderson estimates more than 14,000 people turned out Saturday for the event.

"This is a way to experience history in a positive way," Henderson said. "We wanted history to be about more than a flag. We want it to be about 30 years of history in our region and all the interesting and exciting things that happened here and all of our region's close ties to the nation's history."

Patton says that each year, understanding becomes more important.

"As we go farther and farther our, people are more involved in modern things and gaming and their phones, to teach people about history to understand where they came from where they came from," Patton said, "It's important to understand what the war was, what it means and what the people who fought it went through."