By Richard Rourk
It’s official. The 41st Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival is over. The economic impact may not be tallied yet, but if the crowd was any indicator, it was a successful festival. The early consensus is that the Apple Festival numbers were up again this year, according to the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce.
“We felt really good,” Chamber Executive Assistant Cathy Huskins told The Erwin Record. “Our numbers were up. We actually had several vendors sell out and have to go home early. It was just a super weekend.”
The streets of downtown Erwin were filled with many faces on Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6. Some were familiar and some were visiting the festival for the first time.
“This is my first time here and I’m enjoying it,” Don Caudill told The Erwin Record.
Caudill, who made the trip from Gate City, Virginia, said he heard about the festival from friends that have come down before and decided to check it out for himself.
One of the more popular areas of the festival was the children’s area, which was sponsored by the Unicoi County Family YMCA and set up between Erwin Town Hall and the Post Office. The children, like the rest of the crowd, made their way downtown.
Devin and Danni Lingerfelt came all the way from Elizabethton to enjoy all of the inflatables and fun. Jennifer Bradley watched on as her son, Luke Bowman, climbed the rock wall. Young Porter Huskins had already passed up the children’s area and was shopping for a new belt from one of the leather vendors downtown.
Another popular attraction was the two musical stages. The music kicked off on Friday at noon over at the Love Street Stage, which presented some of the best gospel acts in the area. The Tucker Street Stage showcased a wide variety of musical acts.
“We play a little bit of everything, from a little bit of classic rock to a little bit of classic country,” Keith Oliver told The Erwin Record.
Oliver is the drummer of the band Broadstreet Station. This was the first Apple Festival for some of the acts, but according to Oliver, he had played the festival a few years back and had fond memories of the experience.
“It’s always been a good time, lots of good people here,” said Oliver.
Inflatables and bands weren’t the only attractions in the area. With 350 vendors, there was something for everyone. At the Steel Rails Coffee House, “business was good,” according to Lydia McNabb.
Another local vendor that was enjoying the festival was True’s Apples. Selling bags of apples ranging from $5-$15, Amy True had a steady line forming to purchase the featured fruit. Creative Canvas was downtown giving demos of their art and Mayor Doris Hensley was there checking it out.
“We’re glad you are here today,” Hensley told Angela Shelton and Patti Baker, two of the partners in Creative Canvas, which provide a unique experience as they bring the art studio to you.
Down on Union Street two new businesses that had opened the week of the festival were tending to the crowds.
“I love that they added the vendors down Union Street this year, it really has helped get people in the doors,” Union Street Gallery co-owner Jan Bowden told The Erwin Record.
Over at the Union Street Taproom, co-owner Michael Baker was serving up some of the best craft beers in the area, including a hard apple cider just in time for the festival.
Some of the out-of-town vendors were experiencing the same results as the locals.
“Business was going good,” said Melissa Hooper and Patti Garrett of Our Tribe Creations from Kingsport.
Another new vendor was giving items away this year. Geico who helped sponsor the Apple Festival brought the Geico Bus Experience to Erwin. The bus provided karaoke, air conditioning and several games where everyone was a winner of some kind of prize. Boomtown & Co. out of Johnson City were selling numerous local T-shirts, hats and other clothing. They were selling a unique Erwin T-shirt with a custom art print in honor of “Mary” the elephant.
“We are happy to be back and have a great spot here on Union Street in front of the Union Street Taproom,” Shane Evans told The Erwin Record.
As the 2018 Apple Festival came to a close, the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce is already looking to expand for the 42nd staging of the event.
“We are already looking at vendor information for next year,” said Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp.
Besides all of the entertainment, vendors, and of course apple offerings, there were other events that the Chamber of Commerce and their partners put on. One such event was the Apple Cooking Contest sponsored by the Mountain Harvest Kitchen.
The winners were announced by Mountain Harvest Kitchen Director Lee Manning, UT Extension Agent Rachel York and Town of Unicoi Director of Communications and Programs Ashley Cavender. The winners were Jordan Mallory with a chai apple pie in the pie category. Joe Schultz took home first place in the cake category with his apple pecan carrot cake. The savory category saw Nikki Willis winning with her apple vanilla bean tiramisu. The first place overall was Nikki Willis with her apple vanilla bean tiramisu. Willis also finished second in the pie category with her creamy chai apple pie. In the cake category, Ian Metcalf took home third with his fresh apple walnut cake and Nikki Willis took home second with her apple spiced latte cupcakes. In the savory category, Madelyn Field took home second with her apple pecan upside-down cake.
Miss Apple Festival Pageant
Held on Sept. 29, the Miss Apple Festival Pageant crowned several winners, who were announced to the festival crowd on Oct. 6. The new Miss Apple Festival is Kayla Calton. Crowned Miss Teen Apple Festival was Myra Burchett. Abagail Hensley was named Miss Jr. Teen Apple Festival. The Pre-Teen Miss Apple Festival title went to Savannah Waddell.
Winning the title of Princess Apple Festival was Tatum McAmis. The new Little Miss Apple Festival was Sophie Morelock. Taking home the title of Baby Miss Apple Festival was Sofiah Burgner. Emmalynn Garner was named Mini Miss Apple Festival. Lillian Waddell was crowned the new Toddler Miss Apple Festival. Olivia Greene took home the title of Ms. Apple Festival. Also crowned during the pageant was Christy Rach, who is the new Lady Apple Festival.
One of the big annual events that occur during the Miss Apple Festival Pageant is the receiving of pet food and kitty litter for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter. As part of the Miss Apple Festival pageant, participants raise pounds of pet food and kitty litter for the local shelter.
“We wanted to add a community service element to the pageant,” said Miss Apple Festival Pageant coordinator Whitney Allen Carr.
This year they raised more than 12,000 pounds. The top five Community Service Donors sponsored by Mountain Commerce Bank were: Laykin Tomlinson with 2,184 pounds; Paisley Bunting with 1,301 pounds; Meredith Cochran with 1,171 pounds; Leslie Carrilli with 1,113 pounds; and Neveah Eads with 1,103 pounds.
Apple Dumpling Contest
The annual Apple Dumpling Contest featured several children ages 5 and under from Unicoi County competing for a good cause. The Apple Dumpling Contest contestants raised money for Change is Possible (CHIPS) Family Violence Shelter, as well as multiple education programs of the Chamber of Commerce within Unicoi County.
Emmaline Olivia Drake was the Apple Dumpling of the Year. First runner-up was Colton Longworth. Aiden Stephen Howell was second runner-up. The Apple Dumplings raised a total of $2,064.50.
Ruby Apple Hunt
The annual Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce scavenger hunt, the Ruby Apple Hunt, kicked off on Monday, Oct. 1.
The daily winners of $50 were as follows: Day one – Sandra Parker; day two – Diana Saymaan; day three – Jeremy Greene and family; day four – Linda Hicks; day five – Kristen Banks. The $250 grand prize winner was Jeremy Greene.