Covered Bridge Celebration spans nationwide

Published 5:27 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From California to Virginia, downtown Elizabethton proved to be the place to be last week.
Capitalizing off last year’s momentum, the 51st Annual Covered Bridge Celebration event organizers said they were excited to see the conclusion of their efforts.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback,” said Tonya Stevens, director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce. “We tried to make sure we could provide the best possible entertainment for the public and make sure they had a great time.”
And the proof was in the pudding with thousands taking in the festivities during the three-day affair.
“We had people come in from all across the country,” Stevens said. “It was incredible. We were walking through the crowd talking to people and we were able to meet people that came from California that actually changed their vacation schedule to come visit relatives nearby so they could make it for the Suzy Bogguss concert.”
Musical performances have been one area the event has continued to look at growing over the years. Stevens credited the efforts of Daniel Grindstaff, who helped schedule two nationally known acts to come to the area celebration, Bogguss and Blue Highway.
“Last year was the first year I was involved with the festival and my goal was to try to change the perception,” said Grindstaff, who got Marty Raybon to play during last year’s event. “When you have ‘Grammy award winning’ or those type of titles with your performers, it carries a lot of weight and you are able to bring in a lot of folks from out of the area.”
Grindstaff added the goal was to grow the attendance, which was apparent for this year’s festival. But moving forward, it’s about maintaining the amount to make sure the event is enjoyable for all those in attendance.
Fans were able to have interactions with performers as well, he said, with Bogguss taking an hour-and-a-half after her performance to sign autographs and take photos with attendees.
“I’m just a volunteer. There are so many people to thank,” he said. “It comes back to our sponsors. None of this could be possible without them. Jarrod (Ellis) with J’s Corner is always a great help and he catered each of the nights for performers. Then you have the Carter County Sheriff’s Office and Elizabethton Police Department. Police Chief (Jason) Shaw, Sheriff (Mike) Lunceford and other officers were out during the event and that meant a lot. It was well secured and it was a welcome sight for attendees, too.”
While music performances saw an increase, Stevens and Grindstaff both commended the efforts of the kids area, including the newest addition — “Got the Kids Covered” free kids activity area beside Carter County Drug Prevention and the Bonnie Kate Theater.
“It was such a successful event,” Stevens said. “We’re appreciative of everyone that helped with the area and our Kids Island spot sponsored by Sycamore Shoals Hospital.”
With hundreds of vendors, activities and other items for the public, Stevens said the event was a great opportunity to highlight downtown.
“We have such a beautiful area and we’ve heard so much from our downtown merchants about how the festival was an impact to them,” she said. “This is an opportunity to highlight downtown, then next week we have the Rhododendron Festival. We have so many things to offer in Elizabethton and Carter County and we want to make sure we can spotlight those for community members and invite visitors to come in and come back in the future.”
Different activities are coming up with Liberty! right around the bend at Sycamore Shoals State Park, Stevens said.
For more information on events going on in the county, visit online, the Chamber’s office on Veterans Memorial Parkway or call (423) 547-3850.

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