Rhododendron Festival to coincide with bloom’s peak

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

NW0617 Rhododendron Festival B

The 69th annual Rhododendron Festival will be framed by hundreds of blooming rhododendrons when the event is held this weekend at Roan Mountain State Park.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

When the festival got its start in 1947, it was held at the top of Roan Mountain to take advantage of the blooming rhododendron gardens that are present there.

“It worked out perfectly this year,” Roan Mountain Citizens Club Public Relations Chair Shellie McKinney said. “It will be peak bloom this weekend. Some years it works out that the rhododendrons are blooming and other times it does not. It will be beautiful.”

Over the past few years, the festival has had an average attendance of more than 20,000 people from all over the Southeast and from as far away as California, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Canada and Scotland.

The Rhododendron Festival will have more than 100 arts and crafts and food vendors offering their items for the visitor’s consideration.

“The festival has a large variety of fine arts and crafts,” McKinney said. “It is a wonderful variety.”

This year, the festival will have 24 new arts and crafts vendors who have never been a part of the Rhododendron Festival before. Altogether 98 crafts vendors will be a part of the festival along with 16 food vendors.

“We are so excited to have these new vendors to include in the festival,” McKinney said.

The Citizens Club will have their own tent where they the Citizen’s Club cookbook, Roan Mountain license plate tags, festival hats and T-shirts and drinks for sale.

Entertainment will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Bandwagon Fallacy will start the entertainment at 10 a.m. Jim and Cheri Miller will perform at 11 a.m. and The Boss Family will play at noon. Siam Symphony will play at 1 p.m. A scholarship presentation will be made at 2 p.m. and Thistle Dew will play at 2:05 p.m. Bass Brake will play at 3 p.m. and Roan Mtn. Moonshiners at 4 p.m.

Sunday entertainment will begin at 10 a.m. with open mic for any gospel entertainer until 1 p.m.

Savior Call will play at 1 p.m., Reel Steel at 2 and Greater Glory at 3. Open mic for any gospel entertainer will be held from 4-5 p.m. to close out Sunday’s entertainment.

The Roan Mountain Citizens Club has been hosting the Rhododendron Festival since it first began. The Citizens Club was first started in 1946 by a group of Roan Mountain business men who were concerned about the local economy. The following year, the first Rhododendron Festival was held to memorialize and help perpetuate the natural flower gardens that grow on Roan Mountain. The Miss Rhododendron Pageant was held every year from 1948 until the mid-1970s. That event was originally held in the Rhododendron Gardens on top of the mountain, but was later moved to the state park.

The festival started as a combined effort between citizens of Roan Mountain and a neighboring community in North Carolina but over the years the festival became a Roan Mountain project and the North Carolina citizens started to host their own festival.

Among the Roan Mountain Citizens Club’s early accomplishments was acquiring a two-lane highway to the top of Roan Mountain. State Route 143 was completed in 1952. The road to the top was previously a narrow, one-way passage. The state park, which is accessed by the highway, was created in the 1950s and developed in the 1970s. Park visitors can enjoy tent or RV camping in the campground or rent one of 30 cabins. The park also features picnic shelters, a swimming pool, tennis courts, children’s play areas and extensive hiking trails. Trout fishing on the Doe River, which flows through the park, is another highlight. A convention center was built within the park in 2000.

The club supports the Roan Mountain Community Park, and former club member Don Christman, assisted by the late David Fleming, was instrumental in obtaining land to construct a Frisbee Golf Course as part of the community park on Highway 19E in Roan Mountain village.

For more information on the Rhododendron Festival or the Roan Mountain Citizens Club, visit the website, www.roanmountain.com.