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Plenty of folks hit downtown for festival fun

Jennifer Sprouse • Jun 1, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Patches of sunlight hit areas of the Blue Plum Festival mid-afternoon Friday as people — some local, some not — strolled through the streets hoping to catch some festival food and to check out the vendor tables.

One festival-goer and his family made a long trip to this year’s 13th Annual Blue Plum anxious to see some popular musical acts.

Jason Ott, from Anchorage, Alaska, with his brother, Josh, and his niece, Pennigan, from Ohio, stood close to the Main Street Stage around 5 p.m., watching Milk Drive perform its set.

The brothers, wanting to go to a music festival together this year, had been planning on finding an event to attend when Josh found out about the Plum.

“He came back to me and said, you know, there’s this festival in Johnson City. Guy Clark’s playing there,” Jason said. “We drove down here last night and it’s been fantastic.”

Jason said he and Josh, while newcomers to East Tennessee and the Plum, have enjoyed their time at the festival already.

“It’s nice to see a downtown that’s vibrant and active,” Jason said. “Being in Alaska, everything’s new. The town I live in didn’t exist until 1914, so ... to see this, it has that kind of beauty that I don’t get at home.”

The brothers plan on running the Blue Plum 5K Run/Walk this morning starting at 9 and are excited about seeing Guy Clark perform tonight at 7.

“For me it’s just been being with the family,” Jason said. “The music’s been great and getting to be Uncle Jason is even better though.”

For those walking down East Main Street Friday, arts and crafts vendors were packed in close, hoping to sell festival participants anything from antique silver jewelry, wood working, face painting, pottery and caricatures.

Mike Snapp, with Old Farm Reclaimed Lumber Works, LLP, was selling hand-crafted wood creations, such as cutting boards and crosses made from lumber from old farms.

“We’ve been working for four months getting the inventory set up for this,” Snapp said. “There’s some beautiful stuff, innovative ideas we’ve come up with, handcrafted and it’s all from local trees.”

All four stages, showcasing different genres of music, produced crowds of people filtering in and out, trying to catch little pieces of those performing.

Eric Sommer, musician and Blue Plum helper, was excited about the Plum festivities already under way, as he helped supervise and manage merchandise sales for bands at the festival.

“People are coming down, people are in a good mood and, you know, it’s a happening crowd,” he said.

Sommer, set to perform on the Main Street Stage today at 1 p.m., said his favorite part is the live music.

“The best part of Plum is being here with live music ... out in the middle of the street,” he said. “What a great use of public spaces and re-purposing asphalt to people.”

Chris Witkowski, part of the council with the Urban Art Throwdown, said the showers delayed the participating artists setting up, but said they plan on making up the time. The graffiti competition will continue today and judging begins at 8 p.m.

Toria Hale and her two sons, J’Michael and Zayden, said they came to the festival hoping to play in the Kid’s Area hosted at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, but because of the rain it was shut down for the day. Snacking on some blue cotton candy, the family was in good spirits hoping to hit the face-painting booth and to see some of the musical acts at some point during the weekend.

The Kid’s Area is scheduled to open today at 11 a.m. and run until 4 p.m. with arts and crafts and fun games for toddlers to elementary school age kids.

Another family-oriented part of the festival happening today is the cornhole toss starting at 10 a.m. on Buffalo Street. David Pennington, executive director of Friends of Olde Downtown, said registration for the event was taken down online because they had filled all of the remaining spots for tournament.

For more information on today’s Blue Plum schedule, visit www.blueplum.org.

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