RMCC prepares for festival

Published 9:22 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

What started as group of citizens concerned for Roan Mountain in 1947 has resulted in a positive impact for the community for the present day.
The Roan Mountain Citizens Club (RMCC) continually makes a difference on the mountain, and will see their work preparing for the 70th annual Rhododendron Festival come to a climax this weekend.
“The event, 100 percent, was created by the club,” said Brian Tipton, president of the club and employee of the Carter County Branch in Roan Mountain. “Each year, the club partners with local businesses and Roan Mountain State Park to put on the festival.”
On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Covered Bridge Celebration, attendees of this year’s Rhododendron Festival are expected to have a memorable time, according to Tipton.
“It’s amazing to have an event go for 70 years,” he said. “It’s honor to be part of the event and the Citizens Club. It provides such a big boost for the local economy, in Roan Mountain down to Elizabethton.”
Showcasing what Roan Mountain has to offer was a pivotal item for the Citizens Club to work with, Tipton said, with the group playing a key role in Roan Mountain State Park being available to the public.
“They were instrumental in getting the state park,” he added. Roan Mountain State Park was created during the 1950s and developed 20 years later into one of the biggest tourists attractions of the year, due to the rhododendron gardens.
“Everything lined up perfectly this year,” Tipton said. “The rhododendrons are expected to be in full bloom by the weekend for everyone to enjoy.”
The Citizens Club continued to show what they could accomplish in Roan Mountain by being the driving force of establishing the highway that leads to area.
“That’s what the club is all about,” Brian said. “The group was formed by citizens and local businesses owners that wanted to help by giving back to the community. That’s what we’ve been doing since. The goal has always been to give back to the community and encourage everyone to shop local.”
Saturday and Sunday is gearing up to be one of the biggest events in the history of the festival, Tipton said. The Rhododendron Festival is the main fund raiser for the club.
“All funds that are raised by the club go right back into the community,” he added.
Students at Cloudland High School throughout the years have seen firsthand what the RMCC can do. Each year, the club provides a $1,000 renewable scholarship for a graduate to continue their learning at a secondary or postsecondary school. This year’s recipient, Rebecca Dishner, received her scholarship during an awards ceremony at the school but will be in attendance Saturday for another ceremony at the festival.
“We just want to show everybody where they money goes,” Tipton said. “We’ve been lucky with the club being able to provide scholarship opportunities for students from Roan Mountain.”
The RMCC provides funding elsewhere, too, including a $1,000 donation each year to the state park, that goes toward different projects including the ‘junior ranger’ program the park hosts in July.
Other funding included a community-wide yard from a couple of years ago, Tipton said, that netted $18,000 worth of donations for the Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department. The funds went toward new turnout gear for the department.
RMCC features different events throughout the year, including a tree-lighting ceremony during Christmas and a reenactment with the “Overmountain Men”, highlighting the historical nature of the area.

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