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Covered Bridge Days will feature ‘homegrown’ and ‘superstar’ entertainment

By Lynn J. Richardson
Elizabethton’s upcoming Covered Bridge Days’ organizers are announcing the festival’s line-up of musical entertainment which will include everything from traditional favorites to exciting new acts.
The event, filled with activities, attractions, crafts, food and entertainment, is set to begin the evening of Friday, September 24, and continue through Sunday, September 26.
David Nanney, Recreation Manager, Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department, says he
never expected to be scheduling entertainment for the city’s decades’ old festival. But this year, as Elizabethton’s Parks and Rec Department leads the event for the first time, he is all in.
“We want to have entertainment that we know people will enjoy,” Nanney said. “It’s important to our local people that homegrown talent be mingled in with the ‘superstars’ from the outside world. We are working to have a good balance.”
To that end, Nanney says he thinks there will be acts that will entertain a wide variety of festival goers, with everything from bluegrass to gospel, southern rock to honky tonk, and country to praise.
Most of the entertainment will be on the Covered Bridge Days Main Stage, but this year, with so many different acts, there will be a second stage — “Betsy’s Back Porch” — a repurposed pavilion on the south end of the Covered Bridge Park which will take on a rustic look for the event.
“Betsy’s Back Porch” will be the home of the King and Queen of the Doe Pageant, a performance by the Appalachian Irish Dance Company, and other acts throughout the weekend.
Main Stage entertainment will kick off on Friday evening, 6 – 7:30 p.m., with Songs of the South, an Alabama tribute band led by local musician, Wayne Kelly. They will be playing Alabama favorites like “Tennessee River,” “Dixieland Delight,” “Dancing On The Blvd.,” and “Old Flame,” and many more to get the festival officially underway. 
They will be followed by Merle Monroe, at 8 p.m., a group that has burst on the bluegrass and country music scene, gathering award nominations including one from the International Bluegrass Music Award — New Artist of the Year. The group is led by Tim Raybon and local musician, Daniel Grindstaff. The group’s album, “Songs Of A Simple Life,” has included four number one songs — “Hello Sunshine,” “God’s Still In Control,” “I’m Leaving Town Tonight,” and “Goodbye Marie.”
On Saturday, beginning at noon – 1:30 p.m., Downtown Country, a weeknight favorite in downtown Elizabethton, will be performing country hits through the decades. The group includes local musicians Tony Rominger, Pete Taylor, Kermit Monk, Mike Malone, Jackie Mathis, and Carl Lee Hazelwood. 
They will be followed by a “fan favorite,” and longtime festival performers, the Bullseye Band, from 2 – 3:30 p.m. Local musicians and brothers Patrick, Michael and Mark Little have played together since 1982 and will be performing southern rock, country music and a variety of other music. 
In the 4 – 5:30 p.m. time slot, The Dimestore Cowboys will bring a combination of honky tonk and outlaw country to the main stage. The band, based in Johnson City, includes musicians who all come from throughout Appalachia and perform music that “preserves that sound.”
They will be followed at 5:30 p.m. by the Trailblazer Cloggers, a group that has performed at the festival for many years.
They will set the stage for Appalachian Trail Bluegrass, 6 – 7:30 p.m., who has become a favorite throughout the Appalachian region. A collective group of singers, musicians, and songwriters from Northeast Tennessee, the band has been invited to play at festivals across the U.S., and they are regular guests at the infamous Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Va. 
They will be followed by the dynamic Watts Dancers.
The Covered Bridge Days’ special guest and headliner T.G. Sheppard will take the stage at 8 p.m. Sheppard has had 21 number one hits between 1974 and 1986, including “Devil In The Bottle,” “Tryin’ To Beat The Morning Home,” “Last Cheater’s Waltz,” and “Only One You.” The Tennessee native has performed with the likes of Mac Davis, Kenny Rogers, Larry Gatlin, Eddie Rabbitt and B.J. Thomas. He is ranked among the top 100 country artists of all time. 
Then, following Sheppard’s performance on Saturday night, Nanney is promising a spectacular fireworks show, beginning at 10 p.m. 
The entertainment will begin again on Sunday at 2 p.m., with a group that is the of culmination of different churches and different bands, forming One Church Worship, directed by David Whaley. 
They will be followed by the gospel sounds of Sacred Harmony at 4 p.m. with Janet Weaver, Brian Scott and Theresa Bellamy. The group, which performs throughout the south, has had a number of Top 80 songs over the past few years. Their newest release is “Sing Joy To the World,” from their upcoming new album, “It Ain’t Over Yet.”
Proud sponsors of this year’s Covered Bridge Days include: Carter County Bank, Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank, Carter County Parks and Recreation Board in memory of Rusty Barnett, Life Care Center of Elizabethton, the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce, Tour Carter County, the Elizabethton Star, WBEJ Radio, Northeast Community Credit Union, Dr. Enuf, Select Seven, Goodwill Industries of TN & VA and United Way of East TN Highlands.
For more information, please contact the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department at 423-547-6441.