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Festival shines through rainy weather

The rainy weather didn’t put much of a damper on the 38th Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival.
The event which was held on Friday, Oct. 2, and Saturday, Oct. 3, in downtown Erwin may not have drawn the largest crowd on record, but it was still deemed a success, an event organizer said Monday.
“We had a great Apple Festival,” Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp said. “The weather wasn’t great, and it kept some festivalgoers away, but the vendors I talked to said they had a successful festival.”
A smaller crowd meant shoppers had more time to peruse the booths without feeling pressured by the presence of a large crowd, Delp said.
“Shoppers felt like they had time to look in the booths instead of being carried past the booths by the push of a huge crowd,” Delp said. “I think more time meant shoppers could really see what the vendors had to offer and this led them to buy more than at previous festivals.”
Delp said several vendors reported record sales to the Chamber.
“We had vendors who had to close their booths early because they were out of their products,” she added. “We are happy at the Chamber when our vendors are successful. Yes, we want festivalgoers to enjoy the event, but the success of our vendors is very important. If the vendors aren’t successful, they don’t come. Without our vendors we can’t draw the thousands of visitors we do.”
Delp said the Chamber also judges the success of the festival on the number of vendors who renew their booths before the event ends Saturday night.
“By the close of the festival on Saturday night, we had at least 33 percent of our vendors renew their booths for the 2016 festival,” Delp said. “We usually average around 25 percent of renewals by the close of the festival.
“We are very happy with the numbers this year.”
The festival was once again a way to showcase Unicoi County to visitors from throughout the region and beyond. Bringing visitors to Erwin for the first time, as well as encouraging returning visitors is one of the many benefits of hosting the Apple Festival, Delp said.
“The Apple Festival gives us an opportunity to bring visitors to Erwin and Unicoi County and show them all we have to offer,” Delp added. “We have had many visitors experience the Valley Beautiful for the first time during the Apple Festival and decide to return again and again. The festival definitely helps us recruit tourists.”