By Ray Knapp
When we read or watch world news on TV it’s obvious that countries around the world are at loggerheads and the threat of a nuclear holocaust looms in the background. Citizens are arming themselves like never before. In 2008 handgun permits were about 1 out of every 32 citizens. Now, it has increased to 1 out of 13, and of course, those that carried a gun in their pocket since they were youngsters, haven’t bothered getting a permit, assuming their right to carry a gun has nothing to do with a piece of paper.
In the midst of all that gloom and doom, here in Unicoi County a lot of good things are Rising up. The Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a 5K race called “Achin for the Bacon” at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, followed by a bacon and pancake breakfast.
That same day, a volunteer group called, Rise Erwin, will be holding a Great Outdoors Festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Erwin, with vendors, entertainment, and of course, some outdoor experts to tell about things like Whitewater Rafting, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and if no one else mentions it, there is a beautiful Linear Trail down by I-26, where the 5K race is normally held.
This, Rise Erwin group, are the same ones that sponsored the colorful little elephant sale last year – which proved to be quite a hit and brought in several thousand dollars for the elephant sanctuary over in Hohenwald, Tennesee. I don’t have a date on their next event yet, but it was after the Apple Festival last year.
As a (retired) Weather Forecaster, I will assure you that winter is officially over and we can start doing our spring celebrations. Here in the mountains, winter hangs on till mid-April, and some Old Timers will remind you there was a 6-inch snow on the 17th of May back in the 1930s that killed all the corn and tobacco crops – that’s not happening this year.
May is the month when things really get off with a bang. Other than those things I mentioned, Flag Pond’s Ruritan Club holds its Annual Ramp Festival the second Saturday in May. The 12th of May this year. I take a special delight in that – for one thing, I once helped as a member of their Ruritan Club, but members and visitors alike appreciate the meal of ramps & fried potatoes, soup beans, side-meat, cornbread and of course a few raw ramps to garnish it with; adding something to drink, and desert, is about all anyone can eat . They have entertainment … usually good ole Mountain & Bluegrass music; a clog dancing group or two; a raw ramp eating contest and several other things. Their President, Richard Waldrop, said they would probably have a new pavilion finished out in front of the school just in time for this year’s festival.
On the north end of the County, Unicoi has their Strawberry Festival the third Saturday in May. I like to eat my dessert first, so after two or three varieties of strawberry treats, I don’t have room left for the delicious smelling foods at the other booths. They also have plenty of entertainment and interesting stuff to sell, or just look at. The Appalachian Mountain Rescue Team have rescued injured hikers off the Appalachian Trail and pulled stranded Whitewater rafters from a rain-swollen Nolichucky River. They have quite a bit of rescue equipment on display; among that equipment was an 8-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle that looked like it could climb over any fallen tree or cross a river. I was quite impressed.
There are other events throughout the summer; the 4th of July Celebrations from one end of the county to the other; the Apple Festival in the fall, and of course that new festival of elephants following that.
No place in the world is idyllic; life has its troubles here as well as anywhere, we don’t just live here for the scenery and festivals, we argue over taxes, politics and other things, but most agree when we hear people say: Now this is what I call God’s own country.