The First Annual Sassafras Moon Festival held in downtown Erwin included speakers and vendor booths. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The First Annual Sassafras Moon Festival is officially in the books following a successful turnout at the Saturday, Sept. 7 event.

HERBalachia owner and Sassafras Moon Festival organizer, Michelle Bouton said she was blown away by the turnout.

“I was amazed at our turnout. I had originally set my goal for 20 vendors and 200 people and we ended up with 39 vendors and I was told over 1,000 people visited the festival,” Bouton said. “The vendors I spoke with were all thrilled with their sales, and the theme of the day seemed to be ‘I’ve found my tribe’.”

The Sassafras Moon Festival had perfect weather for the numerous speakers and attendees. “We were given perfect Unicoi County autumn weather, and we had nine speakers, and many of the venues had standing-room only,” Bouton said. “We counted 71 attendees at Erwin Outdoor Supply during our keynote speaker, Joe Hollis and his talk was on Southern Appalachian Herbalism: Past and Future.”

Hollis’ talk explained to those in attendance the importance of herbs and plants in the Appalachian Region.

“He pointed out that our area is considered the ‘cradle of herbalism’ in the U.S., as 70 percent of plants historically harvested for use in the herb trade come from this area, and this is why I feel herbalism can play a great role in the ‘placemaking’ of Unicoi County,” Bouton said. “It is something we are known for; we have a history and legacy of this, and can focus on it for our future. I would love for Erwin to become known for the amazing plants and resources we are blessed with here.”

Bouton said she was overwhelmed by all those that made Sassafras Moon Festival a reality.

“I am greatly appreciative to Jamie Rice and the Town of Erwin for their support and trust in me to pull this event off and for Union Street Taproom, Erwin Outdoor Supply and the Unicoi County Public Library, who were all very gracious in offering their space for our presentations throughout the day,” Bouton said. “The festival also would not have happened without a Placemaking grant from Central Appalachian Network, and assistance of Appalachian Sustainable Development. Many thanks to all these people and our great team of volunteers including HERBalachia graduates, Northeast Tennessee Master Gardeners, and Southern Appalachian Plant Society.”

With all the success of the First Annual Sassafras Moon Festival, Bouton is excited to see the event occur annually.

“We have already had many requests for this to be a yearly event, and I would love to see that happen,” Bouton said. “I will definitely need more assistance next year.”

According to Bouton, HERBalachia has workshops scheduled for this fall and registration is now open for our 7-weekend Herbalist Lifestyle Program, which will begin in March 2020.

HERBalachia’s next event will be Adventures in Plant Spirit Medicine and will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28. If you are interested in learning more about HERBalachia or attending their classes, please follow their Facebook page.