By Keeli Parkey

It might be months away, but the next Unicoi County Apple Festival is shaping up to be a memorable one with a week of events being planned to commemorate the popular event’s 40th anniversary.

“We are very excited to be celebrating the 40th Unicoi County Apple Festival this year,” said Amanda Delp, the executive director of the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, the agency responsible for planning and coordinating the festival. “Working with a steering committee consisting of festival vendors, as well as local citizens, we have made plans to host a week of events in celebration of the 40th anniversary. We hope everyone will plan to join us; it’s going to be a great week.”

The festivities will start on Saturday, Sept. 30, with the return of the Miss Apple Festival Pageant being held in the auditorium of Unicoi County High School, according to Delp.

“The pageant will include divisions for all age groups,” Delp said.

Directing the pageant will be Whitney Carr. More information and an entry form are available at http://www.wonderimages.org.

On Sunday, Oct. 1, everyone is invited to a family-friendly event being held at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center.

“After church on Sunday, we are having a fundraising luncheon,” Delp said. “The Senior Center will serve food. There will be activities for children, including an apple decorating contest. We will also kick off a new event – a scavenger hunt – at the luncheon and give the first clue. The apples will be hidden around town during the week leading up to the festival. Prizes will be awarded.”

Unicoi County’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities will take center stage on Monday, Oct. 2, with what Delp described as a “family adventure night” held at USA Raft.

“We want to showcase the beauty of our outdoors to guests coming in for the festival and to our local residents,” Delp said. “We will be grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. There will be lots of activities, including a corn hole tournament, guided hikes on the Appalachian Trail, volleyball, guided raft trips and other water activities.”

Everyone is invited to put their creativity on display with a “painting party” on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the Choo Choo Cafe, Delp said.

“Individuals can purchase tickets to join us for food and for painting an apple-themed picture,” she added.

Tickets for this event will go on sale Aug. 1. Paint and canvas will be included in the ticket price.

The Chamber will open its doors to the community with an open house on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

“We will offer discounts on festival merchandise,” Delp said. “We plan to invite our longest-attending vendor to join us and cut an anniversary cake to celebrate the 40th festival.”

The festival’s vendors will be the stars of the day on Thursday, Oct. 5, with an appreciation dinner held at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center. Following the dinner, vendors will take to the streets of downtown to set up and prepare for two days of shoppers and visitors.

“Set up on Thursday is always a challenging part of the festival,” Delp said, “but with the cooperation of the vendors and volunteers, it always comes together as smoothly as possible.”

This will all lead up to the festival itself on Friday, Oct. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 7, in downtown Erwin.

“In addition to planning the events prior to the festival, we are also planning to add elements to the festival itself to make it better than before,” Delp said. “We have several ideas in the works that will be announced at a later date.”

The Chamber has released a new festival logo that Delp said will be “consistently used” with future festivals as a way to brand the Apple Festival. She also said that the logo, which features an apple in a mosaic design, represents the elements that make the festival successful.

“The Apple Festival is many pieces and parts that come together to make a whole,” Delp added. “It’s the vendors, it’s the food, it’s the music, the tennis tournament, the road race – all the different elements. If you remove one, then you don’t have the perfect festival that we have.”

For more information about the Apple Festival, call the Chamber at 743-3000.