Rhododendron Festival draws crowds with music, food, arts and crafts

Published 8:45 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips     Rudi Anglemaier of Elizabethon spins yard during this year's Rhododendron Festival. Anglemaier's booth was a head turner as many festival patrons stopped to watch Rudi spin his yarn.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
Rudi Anglemaier of Elizabethon spins yard during this year’s Rhododendron Festival. Anglemaier’s booth was a head turner as many festival patrons stopped to watch Rudi spin his yarn.

Sounds of music and the smells of deep-fried goodies filled the air in Roan Mountain this weekend as people flocked to the 69th annual Rhododendron Festival to Roan Mountain State Park.

This year’s festival featured 112 vendors — 95 arts and crafts booths and 17 food vendors — 42 of which were new to the event. Bringing everything from painted gourds to glass birdfeeders, the new vendors showcased many eye-catching crafts.

“We have had a really good turnout in vendors this year,” Roan Mountain Citizen Club member and festival coordinator Jean Brown said during the festival. “Everyone seems to be having a good time.”

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One of the new vendors was Johnny Hulse of Kingsport. During the festival, Hulse showcased his glass bird feeders, which he has been making for the last two years. The feeders come in a variety of colors and take Hulse roughly 45 minutes to create.

Hulse travels the east coast showing his feeders, and said he enjoyed being at the Rhododendron Festival and would consider coming back next year.

“Everyone has been very nice,” he said.

Another vendor turning heads was Rudi Anglemaier of Elizabethton. Anglemaier had festivalgoers gathering in front of his booth as he used an old­-fashioned spinning wheel to spin yarn for the variety of hand knitted scarfs he had showcased.

First­-year vendor Cathy Walker travelled 205 miles from Crossville to display her large collection of hand painted gourds and woodwork. Walker is self-taught and has been painting and doing woodwork for nine years.

“This is a very nice festival and I have enjoyed being here,” Walker said.

Many of the festival patrons filled the seats of the Roan Mountain State Park amphitheater to listen to a variety of bluegrass and Americana music. One of the bands providing the tunes was Siam Symphony. As the musical group plucked out a fast-paced bluegrass tune, people began to dance in front of the stage.

“There is always a great crowd,” band cellist Julie Williams said. “It is always great to see people get up and dance.”

Siam Symphony includes Terry Barnes on fiddle, Jerry White on guitar, John Gabel on bass and Grady Johnson on banjo.

The Roan Mountain Citizens Club awarded their Support a Student Scholarship, which is funded through the festival and through an auction during the festival, to Cloudland High School senior Erica Birchfield, who will be attending Northeast State Community College.

Saturday morning a plaque was dedicated to the late Ruth Kerley, who was a member of the Roan Mountain Citizens Club since the 80s. On hand during the ceremony was Kerley’s daughter, Jo Buchanan, who is currently the club’s president.

“It was very heartwarming,” Buchanan said. 

Plans are already in the works for next year’s festival, the celebration’s 70th. The Roan Mountain Citizens Club hopes to have senators and the Governor Bill Haslam on hand during the festival, Brown said.