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Unicoi gears up for Strawberry Festival, parade

It’s strawberry season in East Tennessee, and folks in Unicoi are preparing for one of the town’s most endearing events: the annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival.
This year marks the third consecutive time local artisans, craftsmen and other vendors will converge in Unicoi’s backyard for the annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival since its re-christening and re-introduction to the town in 2009.
“Mr. Scott was a pillar of the community and was instrumental in creating new techniques for growing strawberries,” Community Relations Director Linda March said of the event’s namesake, who founded a successful strawberry farm in the 1950s that continues to thrive in Unicoi today.
Many residents of Unicoi, which was chartered in 1994, may recall attending the Strawberry Festival years ago. Even then, festival attendees delighted in the old-timey atmosphere and low-scale draw of the event.
“When the board (of mayor and aldermen) decided to bring the festival back, we got great response from people,” March said, noting that it had been almost eight years since the town’s governing body set the Strawberry Festival aside indefinitely.
Now that the event is back, March said the aim has not changed. She commented that vendors for this year’s festival, as in previous years, are mostly church groups, non-profit organizations and charities.
Those vendors will bring Saturday’s Strawberry Festival to life with booths featuring handmade jewelry, arts and crafts, and even old-fashioned amusements such as a dunking booth and a pie-throwing booth.
Included in this weekend’s lineup are a cornhole booth by the senior center, a local gourd artist, a primitive-furniture maker, Unicoi author Amy Edwards to sell and sign her debut novel “Seeker of the Rose,” local jewelry artist Angelica Miller with her successful line of vintage and unique items, and much more.
In addition to the vendors who will offer the fruits of their various trades, the Unicoi County Humane Society will also be present to offer information about the organization’s services to the county, and the Col. J.F. Toney Memorial Library will hand out information regarding its summer reading festival.
The Clinchfield Senior Adult Center will be back this year with its popular strawberry treats for sale as a fundraiser for the center.
March said this year’s entertainment schedule, which includes singers, vocal ensembles, bands and dancers, will be hard to beat.
“We’ve got so many incredible regional bands,” she said, going on to name the Spivey Mountain Boys, who will close the evening’s entertainment as the final act at 4:45 p.m..
The Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival will take place Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Unicoi Elementary School track field.
The event will be preceded, as it was last year, by a town parade which will begin at 9 a.m. off of Interstate 26 on Unicoi Drive and continue toward Massachusetts Avenue, where it will turn right and head toward the festival site.
The parade, running for the second year, is set to include such attractions as the Shriners, Rolling Thunder, a variety of vintage automobiles, the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department and even Mary, the official town cow.
New to this year’s event will be a pancake breakfast at 7:30 a.m. in the New Life Center at Unicoi United Methodist Church, located adjacent to the festival grounds. The breakfast, March said, is being hosted by the Blue Nation Warriors Relay For Life team.
“It’s good because people can come early and have breakfast before they head over to set up their booths,” March added.
Scott’s Strawberries will have a booth set up at this year’s festival where patrons can get their fill of the delectably sweet treat.
The town of Unicoi has created a Facebook page this year to help promote events such as the Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival. The page can be accessed at www.facebook.com/TownOfUnicoi.
“These are the kinds of things we want to support as a town,” March said of the small-scale atmosphere and old-fashioned nature of the festival. “This event is to reflect our community. That’s what we strive for.”
For more information regarding the festival, call the Unicoi Town Hall at 743-7162.