53rd Covered Bridge Festival brings community together

Even the bursts of rain the day before were unable to shake the mood, forced to leave clear skies and cool air as the annual Covered Bridge Festival kicked off in Elizabethton this weekend.

Sirrena Wiggins and her daughter Jo-jo came all the way from Mountain City to participate in a tradition that has stood with the community for decades.

“She likes the bridge, the water and the inflatables,” Wiggins said.

Hundreds of people from across the region came for two days of music, food and music to celebrate the cultural heritage of the area.

The 53rd year of this annual event fell in the middle of June this year, providing an avenue for parents to spend a day outside with their children, away from the pressures of school or having to juggle work or sports schedules.

“It is a good summer activity,” she said.

Activities were not the only spotlight of the festival, however. Local vendors lined up to sell their wares and form relationships with the community, including Free Reign Farm Goat Milk Soaps, Wahoo’s Adventures and Alex’s Jewelry.

“I have been getting some good business,” home-schooled sophomore Alex Utterback said.

Utterback spent five months creating various jewelry pieces he planned to sell during his first run as a vendor at the festival.

Utterback said he started his “side-hobby” roughly three years ago.

“It feels kind of weird,” he said about setting up an official stand for the first time. “The environment is a little different.”

Towards the evening, local musicians took the stage to add more local atmosphere to the festivities.

Children had an entire section of a street dedicated to them, including a train ride, inflatable obstacle courses and even baby ducks passersby could hold.

Wiggins said she hopes more local vendors will see the success of the festival and participate in future years.

“We would love to see more local craftsmen,” she said.

Utterback said it was a good experience, and being outside interacting with the community was one of the most enjoyable parts of it all.

“I love being out here and enjoying the day,” he said.

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