Covered Bridge Days
Published 2:50 pm Friday, September 15, 2023
By Lynn J. Richardson
Elizabethton’s iconic Covered Bridge days will fill Covered Bridge Park and the surrounding area from Friday, September 22 through Sunday, September 24, with fun, food, crafts and entertainment, featuring music by the likes of Carson Peters, Sister Sadie, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, and Colton Dixon.
The festival will open on Friday, September 22 at 11 a.m., featuring a park full of fun for families and featuring the popular Touch-A-Truck event on Elk Avenue on Friday, September 22.
Main Stage entertainment will begin at 6 p.m. when High-Test Bluegrass will take the stage. A bluegrass band steeped in the musical traditions of Southwest Virginia and the surrounding areas of Middle Appalachia, the group’s repertoire consists of hard-driving bluegrass music mixed with lonesome ballads and traditional bluegrass gospel songs. The band consists of Eric McMurray from Gate City, Va., on lead and harmony vocals, mandolin, and fiddle; Kris Rasnake of Lebanon, Va., on bass vocals and banjo; Garnet Lester out of Glade Spring, Va., on lead and harmony vocals and rhythm guitar; Eric Blankenship by way of Coeburn, Va., on harmony vocals and upright bass; and Carter Lester hailing from Glade Spring, Va., on lead guitar.
Sister Sadie will take the stage at 8 p.m. Described as a “wildfire,” this raging hot bluegrass combines breathtaking instrumental drive nada-inspiring vocals. Comprised of original member Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Gena Britt (banjo & vocals) and newcomers Jaelee Roberts (guitar and vocals), Dani Flowers (guitar and vocals), and Maddie Dalton (acoustic bass and vocals, Sister Sadie has combined the varied talents of each of the individual women in the lineup. In 2022, Sister Sadie was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s American Currents exhibit. That same year, the band took home a third consecutive International Bluegrass Music Association Vocal Group of the Year Award, and new member, Jaelee Roberts, was awarded the IBMA Momentum Vocalist of the Year award.
In 2022, Gena Britt was recognized as the SPBCMA Banjo Player of the Year and Sister Sadie signed with Mountain Home Records to begin work on their third studio album.
On Saturday, September 23, the event will be filled with more music and entertainment.
Saturday’s entertainment will begin at 11 a.m. with the Miss & Mr. Covered Bridge Days Pageant. That event will be followed by performances by the Appalachian Irish Dance Company, 1:30-2 p.m.; Covered Bridge Cloggers, 2:30-3 p.m.; Watts Dance Studio, 3:30-4 p.m.; and the East Tennessee Ballet Academy, 4:30-5 p.m.
Musical acts will also be ongoing throughout Saturday’s festival, as Dan Herrell and the Troubadours take the Main Stage at 1 p.m., playing everyone’s country favorites.
Dan played for the theaters in Dollywood for seven years and was on tour as the opening act for Sawyer Brown for three years. The bass player, Tommy Starnes, played many years for The Benny Wilson Band.
They will be followed by performances by the Bullseye Band at 3:15 p.m. which includes local musicians Michael Little and his two brothers, Patrick and Mark who formed the band in 1982. They have been playing for almost 40 years together. They play a mix of Southern rock, country, and a variety of music that appeals to the masses. These guys have fun doing what they do, and it shows each time they play.
This band has been a front band for T.G. Sheppard, Earl Thomas Conley, and Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. In the summer of 1988, the band went to Nashville and recorded a record on Sundial Records.
Carson Peters and Iron Mountain will entertain the crowd beginning at 5:30 p.m. with their lively bluegrass and country musical performance.
Carson is among the group of country music traditionalists making a comeback to the Nashville scene. At only 19 years old, Carson has made the most of his young career. In 2011, 8-year-old Carson made a guest appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, in which he performed for Leno and Betty White. A few years later, in 2014, Ricky Skaggs made one of Peters’ biggest dreams a reality, inviting him to perform “Blue Moon of Kentucky” at the Grand Ole Opry. Carson has made several trips back to the Opry since. In 2016, Peters made the trip back to L.A. to be a guest on NBC’s “Little Big Shots with Steve Harvey.” In 2018, Skaggs once again invited Carson back to Nashville, this time to perform at the 52nd CMA Awards Show during Skaggs’ Country Music Hall of Fame induction performance.
Most recently, in 2021, Peters was a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice” and received a coveted 4-chair-turn with his rendition of the Don Williams classic, “Tulsa Time.” Peters chose to continue his journey on the show with coach Blake Shelton, getting to work with Dierks Bentley and Ed Sheeran in the following rounds of the competition.
Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers will perform beginning at 8 p.m. Larry, Steve, & Rudy, the Gatlin Brothers, are a Grammy Award-winning trio who have dazzled audiences for more than 65 years with a lifetime of noteworthy achievements in their storybook career, including a Grammy for Best Country Song (“Broken Lady”), three ACM awards for Single of the Year (“All The Gold In California”), Album of the Year (Straight Ahead) and Male Vocalist of the Year for Larry Gatlin, along with five nominations for CMA Vocal Group of the Year, Single, Album and Male Vocalist of the Year. (DOVE Awards – AMA’s – PEOPLE’S CHOICE info here). The Brothers have accumulated seven #1 Singles, 32 Top 40 Records, 22 Studio Albums and five BMI “Million-Air” Awards. Larry ranks 4th as Solo Writers with the most self-penned top 40 Billboard Hits! His massive song catalog has been recorded by the Who’s Who of entertainers, including Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Kris Kristofferson, Sir Tom Jones, Dottie West, Charlie Rich, Johnny Mathis and dozens of others, securing his legacy as one of BMI’s top solo songwriters of all time.
For more than 65 years now, the Gatlin Brothers have entertained audiences in some of the world’s largest venues and from some of the most iconic stages, including the GRAMMY Awards, the American Music Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Oprah, Hee Haw, Love Boat, the Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack, the Merv Griffin Show, Solid Gold, the Barbara Mandrell Show and their own variety special on ABC – “Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers”.
Saturday evening’s fun will also be enhanced by the 3rd Annual Main Street Block Party hosted by Main Street Elizabethton and sponsored by Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank on the 3rd block of Elk Avenue. Live entertainment will be provided by Nathan Hardin with Dan Britt and JP Mathes & Fiddling Leona. There will also be a beer garden from Riverside Taphouse, along with family-friendly games and activities.
The day will conclude with a spectacular fireworks display at 9:45 p.m., sponsored by the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce and Carter County Tourism.
On Sunday, September 24, children’s events, vendors and food will all be available and highlighted by the Youth Business Fair, 1-4 p.m. with winners announced between 4:04-4:15 p.m.
Main Stage Entertainment on Sunday will include One Church Worship, from 2:30-3:45 p.m., a musical group featuring performers from area churches and led by David Whaley of Hunter First Baptist Church.
Colton Dixon, the last performer of the day, will take the stage at 4:30 p.m. bringing a performance of contemporary Christian music.
During 2020, Dixon embarked on a new chapter with Atlantic Records ignited by the self-titled Colton Dixon EP and runaway hit “Miracles” — one of his most popular tracks to date. He wrote and recorded the CANVAS EP. Kicking off this era, he experienced a creative breakthrough with “Build A Boat” in 2022. Between the original and duet version with multiplatinum country songstress Gabby Barrett, it reeled in over 30 million streams (and counting). It also stood out as “the longest running Mediabase Christian AC #1 song of 2022” and locked down #1 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart and Christian AC Airplay Chart for ten weeks. People premiered the accompanying music video and hailed it as “inspiring” for its depiction of the work of medical charity Mercy Ships.
In 2023, he heralds the EP with the single “My Light,” penned by the team behind “Build A Boat,” Swedish songwriters Robin Sternberg and Johan Lindbrant, along with Dixon, Pete Becker, Dan Caplan, Seth Mosley.
Community partners for this year’s Covered Bridge Days are Carter County Tourism, Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce, Eastman Credit Union, Carter County and Carter County Parks and Recreation Board, Citizens Bank, Dr. Enuf, Carter County Bank, the Carnegie Hotel, Select 7 Credit Union, Doubletree Hotels, 88.3 WCQR, Lowes, WBEJ-Radio and the Elizabethton Star.