County to be represented during inaugural festival

Published 4:09 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

As the state continues to brand itself as “The Soundtrack of America,” Northeast Tennessee’s adventure tourism scene could soon be considered a chart-topping song.

Recognizing the interest of the outdoors for residents and visitors, representatives from the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP) held a press conference at Founders Park in Johnson City Wednesday to announce the creation of the inaugural “Meet the Mountains Festival.”

Sponsored by Ballad Health, the festival is scheduled to take place Aug. 24-25 and incorporate the Tri-Cities region, including Carter, Washington and Unicoi counties. The goal of the event, according to NeTREP, is to highlight the area’s assets while encouraging the public to live healthy lifestyles.

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Showcasing outdoor resources is nothing out of the ordinary for Kayla Carter. Carter, who previously served as the tourism coordinator in Carter County, serves as the NeTREP outdoor development manager and indicated the event will prove to be key in highlighting the entire region.

“I think the most exciting part about this festival is going to be bringing together the outdoor community and seeing what kind of ideas that will come out of that collaboration,” Carter said following Tuesday’s press conference. “It’s great to pull all of our outdoor resources together in one place, but push people out to our mountain towns like Elizabethton and Erwin. They’re vital to our recreational economy.”

Founders Park will serve as “basecamp” for the two-day festival with various vendors and nonprofit organizations being able to set up shop. Due to its close proximity, a variety of events will take place in surrounding communities, including Elizabethton and Erwin.

And those two areas are familiar territory of Matt Moses.

Moses operates USA Raft and Mountain River Guides and indicated the festival will be an ideal way to showcase natural assets across the Tri-Cities.

“We’ve teamed up so we can get the locals outside more,” he said. “We want to help our successful businesses retain their employees and we believe showing the public what we have to offer can accomplish that.

“The Nolichucky 5K in Unicoi County will be going on that weekend, so that will be exciting,” he continued. “Carter County is a real jewel with some of the things there. You’ve got the Roan, it’s just magnificent. We’ve started doing stand-up paddling full moon tours in Carter County now. The caving we do, half the cave is in Carter County and the other is in Sullivan County, I believe. The area is well-positioned, especially, with all the whitewater in the area. You can feel the energy and excitement in the Tri-Cities.”

Moses added the investment made by communities into NeTREP are also being noticed with the formation of events like the festival.

“Good things are happening in the region,” he said. “There is action being taken. Good things are happening and I’m excited to be involved with these projects.”

Tourism economic results have been positive for the Volunteer State.

State Tourism Commissioner Kevin Triplett announced Feb. 8 that a study of the state’s “The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee” brand indicated a 19 to 1 return in investment, showcasing an increase compared to a study completed two years ago and is “higher than the national benchmark,” according to the department.

According to information received from the department, the study showed Tennessee “is collecting 19 tax dollars for every $1 spent on advertising the department’s brand.”

Moving forward, NeTREP reps are encouraging communities to hold events in cross-promotion with the festival. Vendor spots are also available for “basecamp.”

“I think it is a great way to showcase to visitors what our region has to offer as far as natural resources and outdoor events,” Tonya Stevens, Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce director, said in a release issued to the Elizabethton Star. “It will also bring greater awareness of those resources to the folks that already live here.”

For more information about the festival or how to get involved, visit or call the NeTREP office at (423) 202-3510. Individuals can also email with further inquiries about the event.