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From the Publisher's Desk – Erwin is about to get festive (Sept. 30, 2015 issue)

In just a few days, downtown will be hustling and bustling with energy as an estimated 100,000 people converge upon Erwin. Is the Pope coming? No, it’s the annual Apple Festival and not even the Popemobile could part the crowds to pass on downtown Main Avenue.
This is the 38th round of the event and I must admit that I have been to all of them. I have been going on behalf of this newspaper for all but five of those years. At least now I can go and enjoy it more because I have employees who take the photos and cover the events. Before I was publisher, I had those duties most of the time.
Would I have gone to every one if I didn’t work for The Erwin Record? Probably not. The good thing about having an office in town is that once you get here, you don’t have to leave and you are right in the heart of it all.
I love having a large window by my desk that looks out onto Gay Street. I usually raise it some so I can hear the chatter and excitement of shoppers going by. There is a circular, brick, planter box underneath the window. It is seat level high and often during the day folks will sit and rest, seemingly unaware that I am behind them.
I usually start Friday out by meeting my “step-dad” at the food court in front of Plant Palace, where we have a cup of coffee and chat awhile. Then we make our way to one of the vendors selling apples, where he buys a bushel of his favorite kind and I carry them to his car. He then makes his way out of town before the traffic gets worse.
I work for awhile and then curiosity gets the better of me and I head out to explore a section and come back. I usually take a break at various times and check out the booths.
For me the draw is usually food. I must say that I show much support to the Amish. Maybe I feel it is my calling. I love their fresh donuts. I also like to go to the booth just down from the Chamber where I find salsas and jellies and butter and…. I know, I can drive toward Greeneville and find them there but during Apple Festival it is even closer.
I also love the couple who sell honey. They weren’t at the festival last year, due to a slow season. I sure hope those bees got with it this year. That queen is going to have to push her workers harder.
Don’t forget the Kiwanis peanuts in several varieties or the Rotary apple butter. All those church groups bring delicious homemade goods and the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center offers a little bit of everything. On Saturday Erwin Presbyterian Church does a delicious breakfast. Did I mention I like the food areas best? I thought so.
I also love the new music stage, located in the parking lot across from the newspaper. It offers a variety of music to suit everyone’s taste. I keep a list of entertainers and times on my desk so that I can remember to run over and check out various groups that interest me.
It is also fun to go by any of the booths that offer samples. There are samples of dips, grape juice, ciders and more.
By late Friday, the streets are super crowded and I find it fun to plant myself in the middle of the density and be moved automatically by the flow. Forget stopping at a booth, it would be nearly impossible.
Imagine yourself driving in a big city. You have to know the exit you intend to take prior to getting to it. You just can’t swerve over at the last moment. The same is true of apple festival merging. It has to be done in planned stages or you just might get bumped into a booth by mistake.
Accidents happen in driving and they can happen at the festival. Remember to spot your desired booth destination in advance, gradually start your merge and hope for the best. On second thought, forget that. Just plow your way, knocking down people and swinging whatever you have in your hand.
And baby strollers? Are you kidding me?
I think it is high time we also considered paying tribute to an important part of Unicoi County that has been overlooked for far too long. I am talking about the sacred tomato. We have the apple festival and the strawberry festival. Can you make a delicious sandwich out of either one? No. There is nothing better than a tomato sandwich. Between Scott Farms and Jones-Church Farms, as well as local gardeners, Unicoi County has a high yield.
We need another reason to have a festival and celebration, with food, of course.