By Keith Whitson
I am so proud of our county and how we showcase and celebrate the many talents and offerings found here. This past weekend there were two such opportunities. What was predicted to be a rainy Saturday, held off long enough for a host of locals and area visitors to see just how Unicoi County celebrates its heritage.
The town kicked off a new event called “The Erwin Great Outdoors Festival,” which proved to be a great success in itself. I must say this didn’t come across as a first time event, but rather one with many years of practice under the belt. An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 attendees walked through the downtown festival during the day.
The event showcased gardening, hiking, camping, rafting, fishing, biking and more. As I walked down Main Avenue, I was amazed at the variety offered and the interest shown by attendees. There were even areas for children to play and a variety of animals to pet and interact with.
The festival offered lots of food vendors, to meet a wide variety of tastes. Many even had to shut down before the end of the day, due to a larger crowd than anticipated. Local restaurant owner, Lou Snider of Hawg-N-Dawg reported an extremely good day and much happiness with the event. Many other stores in town benefited from folks browsing and purchasing.
Musical groups entertained throughout the day, offering a variety of styles. A stage was located near Plant Palace with plenty of seating to accommodate those wishing to stop, listen and rest for a moment.
The Gathering Place park played host to craft beer by the Johnson City Brewing Company. Specialty beers were created from some local flavors as well as some of the brewer’s top picks.
Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson stopped by The Erwin Record Monday and was commenting on the success of the festival. He said they had no complaints and that it had been flawless from start to finish.
The event was such a great way to highlight the beauty of downtown with the revitalization complete. Lucas Anders and his horticulture students from Unicoi County High School have been finishing up the plant beds along the sidewalks and Main Avenue. If you haven’t driven through lately, you should check it out. It made for a great setting for visitors to see.
I traveled from the downtown setting to a country setting at the 21st annual Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Festival held in Unicoi Saturday. This event always draws a large crowd and it is easy to see why. I welcome any chance to relax in the beauty found at Johnny and Pat Lynch’s residence, known as Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens.
From the moment you drive across the charming covered bridge, the beauty unfolds. Rolling fields, a pond, peacocks, nostalgic buildings with food and entertainment and much more, provide the perfect setting for any event.
The great weather gave opportunity to enjoy an antique car show on the property, showcasing a wide variety of makes and models. It also gave way for some gathering spots where musicians could pull up a chair and pick along with each other.
A large banquet facility on the property provided a sit-down gathering space for many to enjoy delicious food options as well as listen to the scheduled bands of the day. A few attendees even took to the floor for dancing.
Both events this past weekend were free, providing an amazing gift for both locals and visitors to enjoy a sample of Unicoi County offerings. Although I have no way of knowing the outreach, I am sure lots of businesses benefited on an economical standpoint.
The celebrations of Unicoi County have only just begun for the year. The Unicoi County Heritage Museum and Clinchfield Railroad Museum will reopen to the public for the 34th season on Saturday, during a special ceremony.
Festivities are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., with the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band serenading attendants. The ROTC Honor Guard will also be on hand.
Next Saturday, May 14, Flag Pond will hold its annual Ramp Festival with a unique celebration of the wild, onion-like, delicacy, paired with some of the best music around.
On Saturday, May 21, Unicoi will host the Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival. This event seems to just get bigger and better each year. A mix of great food, great music, craft booths and the delicious strawberries from Scott’s Farms, gives something for everyone to enjoy.