By Richard Rourk

Included in the Oct. 3 issue was The Erwin Record’s 41st Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival Supplement. (File photo)

The Apple Festival is finally here.

The 41st staging of the annual event will be held on Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6, in downtown Erwin. Again coordinated by the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, the 2018 event promises to be bigger and better than ever.

“We’ve added more booths down Union Street that will help showcase the newly opened Union Street Gallery and the Union Street Tap Room,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp told The Erwin Record.

Partnering with the Apple Festival this year will be Geico Insurance.

“They are bringing the Geico Bus Tour with the Karaoke Experience,” Delp said. “The Geico mascot will be here as well giving out prizes.”

The Geico Bus Tour will be located off of Church Street and Gay Street between the Commons Area and the Unicoi County Courthouse.

On the Southern Gospel Stage, which is located on the corner of Church and Love streets, the headliner will be Melissa Evans starting at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Other acts performing on Friday at the Southern Gospel stage include: The Glorymen and Tiffany performing at noon; Christian Trivette performing at 1:30 p.m.; The Vintage Quartet performing at 3 p.m.; and Russell Bennett at 4:30 p.m.

The schedule for the Southern Gospel stage for Saturday is as follows: Bless’d Ministries kicking things off at 10:30 a.m.; Russell Bennett performing at noon; The Foundations performing at 1:30 p.m.; The Pine Ridge Boys performing at 3 p.m.; and The Joyaires performing at 4:30 p.m.

The music will start on Friday on the Tucker Street Stage at 3 p.m. The headliner on Friday will be HAAL starting at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the line up is as follows: Broad Street Station opens up at 3 p.m.; taking the stage at 5 p.m. will be Hip Gypsy; and closing things out will be 7 Mile Mushroom at 7 p.m.

There will be a children’s area with rides, games, concessions and much more in the parking lot of Erwin Town Hall. On site will be attractions from The Fun Factory, Adrenalin Rush, Laser Tag, Bungee Run, Joust, Saber-Tooth Tiger Slide, Bungee Trampoline and Madagascar. Children and adults of all ages are invited to participate.

The selection of food ranges from traditional, Chinese, Greek, Stir-Fry to specialty items such as apple butter, fried pies, jams, jellies and other apple treats that will be available at this year’s Apple Festival.

The UT Extension Apple Cooking Contest will take place on Friday.

Runners from across the region will converge on the streets of Erwin on Saturday for the running of the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. and YMCA Apple Festival 4-Mile Footrace and 3K Race Walk. Again this year, $100 will be awarded for setting a confirmed new state age group record. Race day registration is $25 for the walk and $30 for the run. Registration closes at 7:30 a.m. the day of the event. All participants receive a souvenir T-shirt.

Festival activities officially began on Saturday, Sept. 29, with the Miss Apple Festival pageant. As part of the event, contestants collected and donated more than 12,000 pounds of dog and cat food as well as kitty litter for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

“We wanted to add a public service element to the pageant,” said Miss Apple Festival Coordinator Whitney Allen Carr. “So we decided to partner with Jurnee’s Journey and the Unicoi County Animal Shelter to raise food and litter for the shelter.”

The pageant contestants received cash prizes that were sponsored by Mountain Commerce Bank.

Currently, the second annual Apple Hunt Contest is underway. There will be a daily $50 prize and on Saturday there will be a grand prize of $250 for those that find the apple medallions in town. The clues to the scavenger hunt will be posted on the festival’s social media page.

Festival merchandise is currently available at the Chamber office, located at the corner of Main Avenue and Gay Street in downtown Erwin. Merchandise will be available at a booth outside the Chamber office during the festival.

For a full schedule of Apple Festival events, visit the Unicoi County Apple Festival Facebook page, as well as unicoicounty.org. Details are also available in The Erwin Record’s special Apple Festival supplement included in this issue.