By Richard Rourk
The smell of a successful festival was in the air on Saturday, May 18, as the Town of Unicoi hosted the 17th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival. The weather was a bright, warm 80 degrees as festival goers came for music, games, shopping and, most importantly, strawberries.
The music lineup featured the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band, My New Favorites, Zach McNabb and the Tennessee Esquires, Adam Larkey Band and Cross Road.
According to Town of Unicoi Communications and Programs Ashley Shelton, it was important for town officials to recognize Armed Forces Day during the festival.
“Since it was Armed Forces Day, we had a recognition ceremony for all local veterans of the armed forces, and the Unicoi County Air Force Jr. ROTC presented the colors while the Armed Forces Melody played and veterans stepped forward to salute during their branch’s theme,” Shelton said. “Three World War II veterans were recognized: Mr. Lee Campbell of Unicoi who served in the Navy, Mr. Charles Lynch of Unicoi who served in the Navy during WWII and Air Force during Korea, and Mrs. Hazel Berry, a Unicoi resident who served in the Navy and still volunteers with disabled veterans.”
There were numerous food vendors that served hamburgers, hotdogs, fried potatoes, tacos, tamales, kettle corn, strawberry funnel cakes, homemade ice cream and many other menu items available at the festival.
There was also a strawberry recipe contest that was hosted by Mountain Harvest Kitchen.
“I would love to thank the contestants and judges for all the hard work,” Mountain Harvest Kitchen Director Lee Manning said.
The winners and winning recipes for this year’s strawberry recipe contest were: Elizabeth Casey, who won first place for her strawberry cheese bread; Nicholas Patterson, who won second place for his strawberry cheesecake dessert; and Melodie Smith in third place for her strawberry cream cheese cobbler.
For children, the festival offered pony rides and a miniature train ride as well as inflatables.
There were more than a hundred vendors that lined up and down the field at Unicoi Elementary School. The vendors’ products ranged from handcrafted home items, to clothing, to handmade jewelry and art pieces.
The festival brought traffic in from all over the region and beyond. James and Diana Pressley of Johnson City, told The Erwin Record that they have been making the trip to Unicoi for several years to enjoy the festival. The Pressleys were just a few of the thousands that braved the warm temperatures to enjoy the event.
“It seems like every year it gets hotter, or we are getting older one,” James Pressley said.
The festivalgoers weren’t the only ones that enjoyed the festival. Vendors had a great day on Saturday as well.
“We’ve done really well and it is still early,” Robin Shelton of Ron Shelton’s No Bull Woodcrafts said.
According to Shelton, the festival expands every year.
“It’s bigger this year, it seems,” Robin Shelton said.
Parents and children were enjoying a break from the shopping and eating to take in a pony ride at the Pony Ride Express. Brother and sister, Reid and Elliott Harris, were enjoying the breeze of the pony ride.
According to Ashley Shelton, thousands attended the festival.
“We can only estimate thousands since we have no way of counting cars at this festival like we did at the last one,” Shelton said. “Food vendors reported that sales were up and craft vendors commented on the larger crowds than usual.”
According to Shelton, Scott’s was sold out of strawberries by 2 p.m.
Shelton was very thankful to be a part of the festival.
“We would like to thank the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department and all the firefighters who volunteered their time to keep things safe,” Shelton said. “We also have to thank all of our volunteers and sponsors, we couldn’t do it without them.”