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Vendor variety Chamber’s goal when selecting festival fare

The goal of Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Director Amanda Delp every year at the annual Apple Festival is to set an enticing table for all who come to experience the event.
Delp said the chamber staff sifts through dozens of vendor applications to pick the widest variety of food to offer diverse guests.
“I think food at any festival will bring all sorts of people out,” Delp said. “People like to have festival-type foods. The food here is usually something you wouldn’t make or don’t have time to make at home. There’s just an opportunity here at our festival to try some things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.”
Delp said food vendors are not affected by the economy like some merchant vendors would be.
“The economy plays a big role in the sales that vendors have, but the economy doesn’t play as big of a role with the food vendors,” Delp said. “People are still going to eat.”
The festival includes two types of food vendors.
Delp said there are vendors who prepare food on site, and merchant vendors who offer snacks like nuts and fudge that are made off site. “People like to be able to come to the festival and get that kind of stuff to take home,” Delp said.
Without counting the many merchant vendors who sell their homemade products, Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Dawn Edwards said there are a total of 30 food vendors available this year.
Local organizations such as the Unicoi County Rotary Club use the Apple Festival to raise funds through food booths.
Unicoi County Rotary President Michelle Ricker said the club makes apple butter three times a year in preparation for the Apple Festival.
“The Apple Festival is when we have a lot of people come in from out of town,” Ricker said. “They will come especially just to buy the apple butter.”
It’s important for the club to have access to the Apple Festival because it depends on the funds to continue providing service to the community, Ricker said. “If we didn’t have the Apple Festival to be able to sell the apple butter, we wouldn’t be able to sell as much of our apple butter as we normally do,” she said.
Clyde Rennie, owner of Olde Tyme Concessions in Sevierville, said he enjoys coming back each autumn to sell funnel cakes, lemonade, tea and apple dumplings at the festival.
Travel from Sevierville, Rennie said, is no hassle. He said he looks forward to the seasonal scenery and seeing friends made over the years.
“The Apple Festival is bigger than most of the festivals we attend,” Rennie said. “There are more people and it’s on Friday and Saturday. A lot of others are on Saturday and Sunday.”
Rennie said he takes his product on the road in the spring and summer, but prefers autumn.
“It’s just fall and the weather’s nice,” Rennie said. “The trees start changing and a lot of people get out during that time of year. It’s nice to see all these people in a small old-fashioned type town.”
The festival wouldn’t be complete without the treats Rennie offers, he said.
“Of course, everybody loves funnel cakes at festivals,” Rennie said. “Thats about the only place you can get them.”
A few items Delp finds popular among the festivals goers are turkey legs and homemade ice cream. She was happy to say that this year they were able to secure vendors who provide the food items.
“It’s probably been about six years since we had turkey legs,” Delp said. “We’ve also got corn on the cob. The homemade ice cream is all hand-churned. We really try to look for those unique vendors.”
With two food courts, Delp said, the Chamber tries to have many styles of food at both locations.
“We try to at least have them in separate food courts, if we have double,” Delp said. “Chicken on a stick is very, very popular. We try to have things like that with one in each food court.” Delp said people in line to get chicken on a stick and homemade doughnuts from Auntie Ruth’s have waited up to an hour before.
Delp said classic festival food such as funnel cakes and southern-style food will be in abundance. Also, this year’s festival features food items inspired by Caribbean, Greek and Mexican cuisine, said Edwards. The annual Apple Festival held in downtown Erwin is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6. Contact the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce at 743-3000 for more information about events, dates and times.

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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