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Blue Plum buzz

Amanda Marsh • Mar 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM

People are already talking about the 2012 Blue Plum Festival.

The buzz started last week when some of the Main Street Stage performers were released via social media websites. Goose Creek Symphony will be the headliner for June 1 and each of the June 2 acts will be announced this week.

“Being part of the social media mix is a big part of how we’re going to be marketing Blue Plum,” said David Pennington, executive director of the festival, which is set to take place in downtown Johnson City June 1-3.

Facebook and Twitter also will be used to release details about other new and improved Blue Plum activities, such as the Urban Art Throwdown that made its debut at the 2011 festival. The number of graffiti artists spray-painting for the top $1,000 prize will grow from eight to 24. Pennington says the competition will take up the entire Downtown Square parking lot and the judges’ top picks will become public art.

Another change to this year’s Blue Plum is the location of the cornhole tournament. To allow more boards for the popular contest, the June 2 event is moving to Buffalo Street and the Little City Roller Girls will set up shop at the previous cornhole location in the Tipton Street parking lot.

Pennington said the Little City Roller Girls will perform roller derby bouts as well as skating for kids and a special disco skate.

Another new initiative for the free festival is the “Plum Green” project. People wishing to ride their bicycles to Blue Plum will have a place to keep their bikes downtown, Pennington said. There will also be a designated parking area for those who would like to park outside the festival grounds and bike into downtown.

“Plum Green” cyclists won’t be the only two-wheeled riders during Blue Plum. The criterium bicycle race will return on June 3, along with other popular Plum events, such as the 5K, the kid’s area at Munsey United Methodist Church, the animation festival and four stages of live music.

In order to save money, Blue Plum organizers had originally decided to do away with the Market Street Stage. “It was a common sense way to reduce our expenses,” Pennington said. “The majority of our budget is spent on music, so we did away with it.”

The Trinity Arts Foundation stepped in and has agreed to schedule performers and run the Market Street Stage.

The Roan and Jazz stages will still be a part of the 2012 Blue Plum, but Pennington admits it has been a challenge to find a way to cover the costs.

“Being that it is a free festival, it has been extremely difficult to get it paid for,” he said. “Money is tight. It’s not the lack of effort from sponsors, it’s the available monies to do it.”

Even though the road to Blue Plum isn’t necessarily easy, Pennington and other festival organizers have continued to pull together a solid live music lineup.

“I think we try to put our thumb on the pulse of what ... Blue Plum attendees want to hear and spend the money that we do have allocated for music to get the best,” he said.

Before June 1 headliner Goose Creek Symphony takes the Main Street Stage, Blue Plum-ers will get a chance to hear Sol Driven Train, from Charleston, S.C, MilkDrive, from Austin, Texas, and the Americana band Folk Soul Revival, from Wise, Va.

Jazz Stage performers will be released later this month, as well as the local bands scheduled to appear on the Roan Street Stage.

Attendance at Blue Plum continues to stay around 80,000, Pennington said. He foresees the trend to continue for the 13th annual Blue Plum.

“Other than the fact that you can walk down the street with a beer in your hand, I think what sets it apart is that it’s a three-day festival, but it’s intimate,” Pennington said. “Blue Plum is a concentrated festival experience.”

For more information about the 2012 Blue Plum Festival and links to festival Twitter and Facebook pages, visit www.blueplum.org.

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