Record crowd attends 70th Rhododendron Festival
Published 8:30 am Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Much like the rhododendron, Roan Mountain State Park blossomed into a thing of beauty over the weekend.
The 70th annual Rhododendron Festival finished this weekend with record numbers, according to Roan Mountain Citizens Club (RMCC) president Brian Tipton. Over the two days, Tipton estimated nearly 10,000 participants taking part in what the event had to offer.
“This past two days have been absolutely wonderful,” he said. “We had record crowds, vendors have been doing really well, tons of great food and entertainment, the flowers have been beautiful … we’ve been hearing that everyone has enjoyed this year’s festival.”
With the Roan Mountain tradition reaching a milestone for this year’s anniversary, the RMCC went all out to make this year’s festival memorable for each attendee.
John Miller, native of Carter County, grew up in the Roan Mountain community and enjoyed what this year’s festival had to offer.
“I enjoyed all the different vendors that they had this year,” he said. “Looked like they had a bigger variety than they did in many years.”
Saturday and Sunday saw over 130 vendors provided a wealth of variety for the thousands walking through the state park’s grounds.
“Having all these crafts vendors available who make their own crafts is amazing,” Tipton said. “It was great to work around, see their talents and be able to buy what they had for very reasonable prices. It was just great to see how talented each of the arts and crafts vendors were.”
Soulful bluegrass and gospel music filled the mountain landscape over the weekend, with Sunday providing an open mic in the early morning hours to let individuals take main stage to perform.
With bands, like the Roan Mountain Moonshiners and Siam Sympathy, the festival also featured past rhododendron queens, Rebecca Dishner – Cloudland High School graduate and the 2016 recipient of the RMCC’s annual scholarship. Much to the surprise over the crowds, congressman Phil Roe stopped by Roan Mountain on Saturday, battled through the traffic, and show his support for the community, Tipton said.
“The club works closely with all our elected officials,” he added. “We do that to help with different areas that may need assistance. To have his support and have him stop by for the 70th anniversary was real special, and demonstrates what type of guy he is.”
Even with this year’s success surpassing the previous years, it all comes back to helping the community, Tipton said. The club reportedly raised over $175,000, with each dollar going back into Roan Mountain. Along with raising money by their custom-designed t-shirts, as attendees left that area, they were welcomed by the Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department operating a roadblock to raise funds.
“Each year, I’m amazed how the club comes together to put on this festival,” Tipton said. “It’s a long process, but what’s even better is that each year it gets better. I know after this festival comes to an end, I’ll already be getting excited for next year’s festival.”
The RMCC won’t rest for long for the coming months. With various events coming up in the fall, including the annual Christmas tree lighting in November, Tipton said the community can be ready for some festive times.
Individuals looking to purchase the 70th annual Rhododendron Festival t-shirt, designed by the RMCC with funds, can visit roanmountain.com.
The website also allows citizens to learn more about what’s in store the club and the community.