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Organizers say recent Strawberry Festival set attendance record

Erwin Record photo by Richard Rourk • Unicoi Volunteer Firefighter Randall Oaks pulls a string of passengers in child-sized train cars around the grounds of the Strawberry Festival.

 By Richard Rourk

Strawberries and sunshine welcomed a record crowd to Unicoi on Saturday, May 15.

The Town of Unicoi’s 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival, presented by Scott’s Strawberries and Tomato Farms had between 6,000 and 10,000 visitors. “This is definitely a record,” said Town of Unicoi Director Of Communications and Programs Ashley Shelton. “We redid the floor plan this year and it worked perfectly.”

According to Town of Unicoi Mayor Kathy Bullen, the record crowd was a sign that people are ready to get out following a year of Covid-19.

“This is huge,” Bullen said. “It shows that it is time to get back outside.”

The festival’s main attraction was sold out midway through the festival, thanks to a public ready to return to normal following a year of pandemic. “We actually sold out today, but we will be picking tomorrow and will be back at our dedicated locations,” Scott’s Farms  Owner Steve Scott told The Erwin Record.

The festival provided so much more than delicious strawberries. 

Erwin Record photo by Richard Rourk • Victor Terrazas from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Parish served food nonstop during the Strawberry Festival.

“We had a diverse mix of vendors, musical acts and activities for the whole family,” Shelton said. “We had vendors from North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and of course Tennessee.”

Grandma Crossbones Twisted Fork and Silver, from Indiana made their Strawberry Festival debut this year. “We saw this festival and decided to sign up,” said Grandma Crossbones Twisted Fork and Silver Co-owner Edmund Troy. “We hope to move to the mountains someday soon and this was a great chance to visit and explore.”

According to Grandma Crossbones Twisted Fork and Silver Co-owner Debbie Troy, the visit was a successful one. “We’ve sold many items today and more importantly made some new friends,” Debbie Troy said. “I started crafting jewelry out of silver plates and loved it. Some of the silver I use is from the 1800’s. The jewelry and wind chimes I make are all from spoons and forks.”

A veteran of the Strawberry Festival returned on Saturday. Dancing Goat Farms owners Vicki Church and Jerry Letterman brought handmade soaps and lotions made from pure goats milk to the festival. “We are from Bakersville, North Carolina and we love this festival,” Church said. “It’s a lot cooler than any other Strawberry Festival in our region. Anyone that missed out on our products can follow us on Facebook at Dancing Goat Farms.”

Among the variety of vendors, there were numerous food options. One of the popular food locations was St. Michael the Archangel Parish’s booth which was serving authentic Mexican cuisine. “That line had not moved all day and it smells wonderful,” Mayor Bullen said of the church’s booth.

Along with the variety of vendors and musical acts including the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band, Tennessee Hills Mountain Melodies House Band, Zach McNabb and the Tennessee Esquires, Powershift and Brian Keener and Blue Steel, the Town of Unicoi’s 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival teamed up with Model A Mac’s owner Mike McIntosh to showcase some of the most unique automobiles in the region.

Erwin Record photo by Richard Rourk • John Lingo, left, and Model A Mac’s owner Mike McIntosh stand next to Lingo’s 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe.

Model A Mac’s Car Show featured a diverse group of automobiles including a handmade, restored 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe. “I worked on this restoration for a little more than two years,” custom 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe owner John Lingo said. “I built the engine and most of the body after getting the specs from another 1931 Model A.”

Car show enthusiasts got a chance to take a picture and to talk with car owners about their unique rides during the festival.

According to Shelton, the Town of Unicoi is already looking forward to future events. 

“We will have Freedom Fest and we are preparing for record crowds for that event as well,” Shelton said. 

Shelton was thankful for everyone that made the Town of Unicoi’s 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival a success, including long time Town of Unicoi Recreation Aide Patricia Bennett. 

“She has worked tirelessly on this,” Shelton said. “There were so many that stepped up.”

Shelton  pointed out Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Erwin was instrumental in making this event safe, especially for the pedestrians. 

“I have to thank Unicoi Police Department, Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, Unicoi County EMS, Unicoi County Search and Rescue and all of the first responders who kept this event safe,” Shelton added.

“I also have to thank our sponsors which included Scott’s Strawberry and Tomato Farms, Ambrosound, Bank of Tennessee, KNK Automotive, Mountain Commerce Bank, Bank of Tennessee, East Tennessee Model-A Restorers Club, Mountain Harvest Kitchen, Little Miss Southern Sparkle, Clinchfield Credit Union, Constellis, LLC, Earth Effects, Family Auto Care, Farm Bureau , H&H Auto Sales, IW Trailers, Jones Hardware, Los Jalapenos, Maple Grove Restaurant, Maple Grove Wine & Liquor, BWXT Nuclear Fuel Service, Primo’s, Reflections Health & Wellness, Robert Ledford Funeral Home, Specialty Tire of America, State Farm Insurance Brian Poston Agency, Steel Rails Coffee House, The Peterson Brothers /Hurd Realty, Tsubaki Nakashimi, Unicoi Wine & Spirits, Wiseman’s Clothing, Walmart, Bays Mountain, East TN Rent-Alls, ET Golf Cart & Power Sport, China Kitchen, Shults Law Office, Advance Auto Parts, Food City, Food Lion, Limestone Cove Market and Deli and Lowes in Johnson City,” Shelton said. 

“This festival couldn’t have happened without them,” she added.

Erwin Record photo by Richard Rourk • Scott’s Farms owner Steve Scott stands with Brittney Adkins who purchased the last available bucket of Scott’s famous strawberries during Saturday’s Strawberry Festival. The yearly festival is named for Steve Scott’s late father, Wayne Scott.