The 2019 Erwin Great Outdoors Festival will be larger than before and will include a kickoff on Friday, May 3. The festival will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 4. (File photos)

By Richard Rourk

Spring is finally here and festival season in Unicoi County has arrived along with it. With NOLI Fest, Upper East Tennessee Fiddlers Convention and Fiddlers and Fiddleheads finished, it is time for downtown Erwin to get outdoors. On Saturday, May 4, starting at 10 a.m., the 4th Annual Great Outdoors Festival will officially be underway.

This year will also have a Friday night kickoff that partners with the First Friday events in downtown Erwin. The Friday night kickoff will be on Friday, May 3, starting at 5 p.m. The First Friday events will include the First Annual Union Street Chili Cook-Off sponsored by Erwin Outdoor Supply, a beer tent set up by Union Street Taproom, Union Street Gallery LLC will be open for business, and Movie Night with Bite Food Truck. What’s the Scoop will be hosting a Creative Canvas party and will feature free toppings. A Crystal Generation will be giving away a free small Rose Quartz with a purchase. There will also be specials from Beauty by MC and CHIPS is offering a free bracelet with purchase. There will also be live music downtown and the popular Erwin Cruise-In will be set up at the Unicoi County Courthouse parking lot.

Joining the Great Outdoors Festival this year is the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce’s Triple Threat Competition. The Triple Threat Competition pushes competitors to raft down the Nolichucky, compete on an 18-obstacle, obstacle course, run a 5K race and cross the finish line downtown.

All registered participants will receive a race shirt, racer goodie bag, Triple Threat completion medal, and free beverage compliments of Union Street Taproom. For more information, call the Chamber office at 743-3000.

Town of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice is excited at all the events planned during the Great Outdoors Festival.

“The new Gathering Place park has been redesigned and will be used for the first time, and there will be a 50 foot demo pool located on First Baptist Parking to allow paddle boarding and kayaks,” Rice said. “Cabela’s will sponsor a live trout pool. Middle Man Ministries is sponsoring a mobile skate park again, which will be at First Baptist, and Scott’s Strawberries will be bringing their first fruits of the season and ice cream.”   

According to Rice, that’s not all that will be available.

“Erwin Outdoor Supply is offering all kinds of hospitality events for the day, and there will be a doctor and veterinarian on premises, hot foot soaks, and free pancake breakfasts,” Rice said.

There will be lots of music downtown as well. My New Favorites will take the Union Street Stage at 11 a.m. and 49 Winchester will be playing downtown at 5 p.m. For more information on My New Favorites or 49 Winchester please follow their Facebook pages.

The one thing that is missing from this year’s festival is the new crop of elephants that have decorated Downtown Erwin in the past.

“We have had a little setback with the Elephant Statues this year, as our supplier in Nebraska had a terrible flood, and has gotten a few months behind,” Rice said. “There will be 20 small painted concrete elephants sprinkled all over downtown in June, with the large ones returning for 2020.”

Rice hopes everyone can come out and enjoy the festival.

“This event could not exist without the entire community pulling together to make it happen. Our most successful events are those that are driven by volunteer grassroots effort, including the Great Outdoors Festival,” Rice said. “We do not have huge donations from area sponsors, and this festival’s spirit comes from those with a passion for our natural resources and their volunteer attitude.”

According to Rice, the festival is entirely free and includes more than 30 free interactive activities for children and adults. For more information, please follow RISE ERWIN and the Town of Erwin’s Facebook pages.