Soggy conditions force Blue Plum Festival to move from Founders Park

Mackenzie Moore • Updated May 31, 2018 at 6:09 PM

Brush Creek’s rising water won’t sink this year’s Blue Plum Festival.

But it will push the annual event a few blocks up the street.

Rising water in Brush Creek swamped Founders Park’s grass and the surrounding area, leading Johnson City officials to close the park. That’s where the Blue Plum Festival’s main stage and many vendors were to be set up this weekend.

But organizers had a Plan B.

In fact, when organizations host an event and get the required permit from the city, they are also expected to devise a Plan B in case of unexpected issues — like inclement weather. The Blue Plum Board’s original Plan B reduced the number of vendors, but the board and city compromised to squeeze the main stage and many vendors into the city-owned parking lot in front of the Trek bicycle shop on West Market Street.

Blue Plum Festival Director Caroline Abercrombie said the move would be difficult, but she stressed that the same vendors and entertainment will still participate.

“We’re trying to get the safest way to fit the same festival into a smaller area,” Abercrombie said. “We are keeping everything we were originally going to have and trying to close as few main roads as possible. This actually opens up a few more parking areas near the end of Founders — not much, but I think parking will actually be less of an issue.”

Signs were posted at Founders Park entrances Thursday to alert visitors that the park’s Great Lawn was closed.

“Founders Park is a flood control project,” City Manager Pete Peterson said in a news release. “With the amount of rain we’ve already seen and forecasts of localized flooding over the next few days, we cannot risk festivalgoers gathering around a high, rapidly moving creek.”

Peterson also pointed out the amount of damage the water-logged lawn would suffer under the feet of thousands of Blue Plum attendees.

“By closing the park, stages will move onto paved areas where our citizens and guests can stay safe and out of the mud,” he said.

The festival footprint includes the closure of West Market Street from Buffalo Street to Boone Street; West Main Street from Buffalo Street to Boone Street; Wilson Avenue between Commerce Street and Boone Street; and Commerce Street between Boone Street and Roan Street. Road closures will be in place from 7 a.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday.

Last year, 8,000 to 10,000 festivalgoers attended Blue Plum, and Abercrombie hoped for an even bigger turnout this year despite the changed plans.

“I would encourage you still to come,” Abercrombie said. “Nothing is going to change. We have a little less grass, but we have all the same bands, all the same food vendors, all the same arts and crafts vendors. Nothing is going to change. Kids’ zone’s still going to be here with all the same things, the silent disco’s not going anywhere. So, come out and enjoy it; everything is still free.”

Abercrombie encouraged festival-goers to anticipate a weekend event for the entire family.

“I hope to see a lot of families coming out and having fun and realizing that the festival’s grown,” Abercrombie said. “Things have changed a little. Just keep an open mind. Come check it out; we’re all just here to have fun. We all volunteered and put this time in because we want the community to enjoy this. So, everyone come. We have things for all ages.”

As Abercrombie expounded upon the modified locations, workers began to assemble the Ferris wheel, which will be up from the Wild Wing Cafe on Wilson Avenue. According to Abercrombie, an information tent will be at the pavilion with vendor and stage maps.

The festival board will finalize a revised map and planned to launch it this afternoon on the festival website.

With the exception of food and rides, the festival is free of charge, and it begins Friday at 4 p.m. Parking is free on city lots, but festival planners advise visitors to park in the Northeast State Community College parking garage all weekend, entering on Buffalo Street.

Wet weather could continue during the festival. The forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms Friday evening and a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms on Saturday.

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