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Plum ready to start

Jennifer Sprouse • May 31, 2012 at 9:35 PM

After months of planning and figuring out which vendor goes where, what band performs at what time and where to showcase each exhibit, the time has come for the Plum.

Visitors heading into the downtown area for the 13th Annual Blue Plum Festival will probably not recognize the usual scenery, as it has been transformed overnight to accommodate various vendors at this year’s event.

David Pennington, executive director of Friends of Olde Downtown, said vendors started setting up Thursday night.

“Last year we started that and it worked ... real well for the vendors to get in the night before to get set up, instead of it just being a madhouse on Friday morning,” Pennington said.

With streets blocked off in the downtown area from Buffalo Street to Colonial Street, Pennington said visitors will notice that portions of the festival have either expanded or relocated.

“They’ll see a much larger Jazz Stage. That whole section is going to be much larger than it has been in the past,” he said.

A roller derby track will also be set up in the Tipton Street location, which is a new addition to the festival events this year. Roller Derby events will start at 6 p.m. today and close at 8 p.m. Saturday the derby track will open with open skating at 9 a.m. and close with a Roller Disco Open Skate at 7 p.m.

A Kid’s Area, sponsored by Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, the Johnson City Power Board and Northwestern Mutual, will host a variety of activities for toddlers to elementary school age kids including a water balloon slingshot, crafts and festival games. The area will be open today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hands On! Regional Museum, the Niswonger Children’s Hospital, TriCityMom.com and TENNDerCare will also be at the Kid’s Area with activities and to provide information to kids and parents.

Another festival favorite is the cornhole toss happening Saturday at 10 a.m. with an entry fee of $30. This year’s tournament will be held on Buffalo Street.

And what’s a festival without festival food?

The Plum food court will play host to 20 different food vendors, hoping to provide something for every appetite.

“You’ve got all of your good stuff that everybody’s accustom to having,” Pennington said.

From Mexican- and Italian-type dishes, to festival favorites like funnel cakes and turkey legs, the Plum will also be catering to the festival-goers sweet tooth with a variety of desserts.

He said Auntie Ruth’s will also be serving up donuts at the festival.

“They’re fabulous. They’re definitely Krispy Kreme competitors,” Pennington said.

Blue Moon Brewing Company, the title sponsor of the event, will be at the event to provide samples to legal age visitors and will be promoting the responsible drinking wristband program. Wristbands will be distributed at ID stations in the festival to allow people of age to purchase alcohol in bars and restaurants in the downtown area.

Biodegradable cups will also be provided by Blue Moon in the festival’s overall efforts to go green.

Another “green” advance is the integration of a My Blue Plum is Green program, encouraging festival-goers to ride in on two wheels instead of four to the Plum. The festival will have bike parking set up at at Tipton Street and Buffalo Street and the first 100 participants to ride in on their bike will receive a “My Blue Plum is Green” T-shirt.

The music lineup tonight of 15 bands includes the headliner Goose Creek Symphony on the Main Street Stage starting at 9.

Expecting around 80,000 people at this year’s festival, Pennington said he’s happy to kick off another Blue Plum this morning at 11.

“I’m excited for it to start. Everybody’s been doing what we’ve been preparing to do,” he said. “There’s nothing else to do other than enjoy the festival.”

For more information on Blue Plum events and visitor information, visit www.blueplum.org.

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