Cheers to our summer festivals

Published 11:52 am Monday, June 5, 2017

Elizabethton is steeped in summer traditions — the Saturday car shows downtown, the Rhododendron Festival, the Elizabethton Twins baseball games, Little League, and of course, the Covered Bridge Festival.

Elizabethton’s Covered Bridge Festival, always a hometown favorite, is only days away — June 8-10. The festival will feature live music in the Covered Bridge Park each evening with arts and crafts, food vendors, contests, and, of course, a Kids Area.
Kicking off the music celebration is fiddling sensation Carson Peters & Iron Mountain, who will perform Thursday in the park.
At 12 years old, Carson is a seasoned performer playing numerous venues with the band throughout the region, some of which have included Bristol Rhythm and Roots, Dollywood’s Bluegrass and BBQ, Song of the Mountains, Carter’s Fold, just to name a few. In the big league, Carson has played at the Grand Ole Opry, appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Little Big Shots with Steve Harvey, and on the floor of the Tennessee State Senate with Jimmy Fortune. Carson is a hometown favorite as his parents hail from Stoney Creek.
Friday’s music in the park will feature award-winning Blue Highway, and rounding out the entertainment Saturday evening will be Grammy Award winner Suzy Bogguss.
In addition to music, arts and crafts, and food, the big three-day festival will conclude with fireworks Saturday night.
Of course, the summer festival celebrates Elizabethton’s Covered Bridge, built in 1892. One of seven covered bridges in Tennessee, Elizabethton’s Covered Bridge is the oldest in the state and is one of the few nods to the past that keep people’s eyes glistening with a tear of nostalgia.
Next up is the 2017 Rhododendron Festival, the weekend of June 17-18. The 71st Rhododendron Festival, too, will feature arts and crafts, musical entertainment, and a variety of festival food.
The festival’s purpose is to showcase the rhododendron bloom on beautiful Roan Mountain, one of Tennessee’s state parks.
In a natural setting of rich meadows of rare moss and heather, surrounded by forests of evergreen balsam, and crowned overhead by the bluest of blue skies, the gardens are breath-taking in their beauty. Towering above the Appalachian valleys, the gardens are often actually above the clouds, giving rise to the name “Cloudland.”
Each year, thousands of people flock to the mountain at the peak bloom period during late June. In a good year a single bush might boast over 100 clusters of flowers while hundreds of bushes spread out over the mountain. Catawba Rhododendron bushes are so plump and round that they appear to have been pruned by the hand of man to achieve their perfect shape, yet the only sculpture work on Roan Mountain is that of Mother Nature.
Both, the Covered Bridge and Rhododendron Gardens are unique treasures to our area and rightfully so, should be celebrated.
With many small towns languishing, summer events are an important opportunity for towns like Elizabethton to show off their attractions to outsiders while giving the local economy a much-needed boost. Then there is the added benefit that many visitors are likely to return at another time of year if their initial exposure to the town was a fun and successful one. It is clear that festivals, besides breathing life into the retail and hospitality sectors, have a powerful unifying role to play. These festivals are an important part of what makes our communities special. They are a chance for us to spend time with the residents we know and perhaps meet some folks we don’t.

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