Elizabethton’s Celebration lures art and crafts vendors from near and far

Published 8:53 am Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Covered Bridge Celebration is a spring-time tradition for Carter County. Photo by Brandon Hicks
And a tradition-within-a-tradition is the dozens of arts and crafts vendors who gather, each offering something unique for visitors to buy and take home with them.
Vendors started arriving early Wednesday afternoon in Covered Bridge Park to set up their booths and welcome customers. They included both local artisans and those who traveled miles to take part in the annual festival, a mix of first-timers and Covered Bridge Celebration mainstays.
Ken and Pin Dodd of Lake City, Fla., were two of those Covered Bridge Celebration rookies. Pin Dodd said they were introduced to the festival by a friend who regularly set up a booth as well.
“She told us all about it, and we decided to come check it out,” she said. She added they were regular festival participants in events in surrounding states.
The Dodds’ booth features jewelry and gem stones, including jewelry with freshwater pearls were harvested in Florida.
“We like it here,” Pin Dodd said. “It is different. We like the weather here. It is a lot cooler than Florida.”
Elizabethton resident Pearl Clemons has been coming to the celebration for the past six years. She makes baby quilts, adult quilts, pillows and quilted baby books, selling them throughout the year at her house and at local festivals.
“I started making them in January,” Clemons said. “This is my money for the heat bill in the winter.”
She said quilting provided her with “therapy” after her husband passed away after battling cancer.
Clemons continues to participate in the festival, not only because of the extra money, but because it gives her a chance to reunite with friends she has made through the years.
“It’s a chance to make friends,” she said. “Some of these vendors come back every year. We have been side-by-side for three years. She’s my partner.”
Clemons’ booth-mate and friend is Karen Sproles-Elizondo. Originally from Bristol, Sproles-Elizondo now lives in Charlotte, N.C. Her booth features jewelry, keychains and hair accessories all made from polymer clay. She also sells “redneck” wind chimes made from upcycled kitchen utensils.
“I quit my full-time job teaching to do this,” she said. “I do all the festivals close to home.”
Another set of vendors from Elizabethton is husband and wife Bethany and David Banks. The Bankses sell natural skin-care items and soaps made from goat’s milk. The goat’s milk comes from their own goats at Free Reign Farm. This is the first year the Banks have sold their items at the Covered Bridge Celebration.
“This is the first year that we have been working to promote our business,” Bethany said. “We can’t miss the events that are close to home.”
She said they started making goat’s milk products for family members after learning the items were good for dry skin.
“We made it for family members, and then everyone had to have it,” she said. “It just grew from there.”
Erwin resident Tina Henson is another first-time vendor.
She is at the Covered Bridge Celebration promoting her business “Funky Junk.” She has a storefront in Johnson City and has participated in several local festivals.
Henson collects items that have been discarded or which she finds at yards sales or thrift stores. She restores them, giving the items a new lease on life.
“I upcycle and recycle,” she said. “I do the local festivals to get my name out there. The items I have are very different, very colorful. They are not for everyone, but I have a good eye for finding the right pieces.”
Dozens of additional vendors are set up in the Covered Bridge Park waiting for festival visitors to come their way.
The Covered Bridge Celebration continues through Saturday.

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