UNICOI — Plants are in bloom and harvesting has commenced, making now the ideal time to celebrate the small fruit that has a large number of local fans.
The town of Unicoi’s annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival will be held Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. on the field next to Unicoi Elementary School, located at 404 Massachusetts Ave.
This year’s event will once again kickoff with a parade and again feature food and craft vendors, activities for all ages and musical entertainment, but town of Unicoi Public Relations Coordinator Molly Campbell said big changes are in store for this year’s festival.
“We want to make it a unique town of Unicoi event,” Campbell said. “Each year, we’re going to feature something new. This year is the prize giveaway, and we are working diligently to create a talent competition for next year.”
The prize giveaway will begin at 4 p.m. Prizes will be awarded from randomly drawn raffle tickets. To obtain tickets for the drawing, festival-goers need to bring receipts for items purchased at businesses within the town of Unicoi from April 18 to the day of the festival. For every $10 spent at a local business, one raffle ticket will be given. Two tickets will also be provided to those who purchase an official Strawberry Festival shirt, and one ticket will be given to those who complete a needs assessment survey for the town’s Parks and Recreation Department or bring an original copy of this article to the festival.
Campbell said prizes will include passes to Hands On! Regional Museum, tickets to Tweetsie Railroad, free food from Buffalo Wild Wings, tickets to Carowinds Amusement Park, a resort stay at a Marriott Hotel and passes to other area attractions, including some in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Those interested must be present to win.
For the fourth consecutive year, the festival will kick off with a parade, which will begin at 9 a.m. The parade will begin near the Unicoi Funeral Home and travel down Unicoi Drive before turning onto Massachusetts Avenue and concluding near the field where the festival will be held.
David Browning, who portrays the Mayberry Deputy, is back once again to serve as grand marshal of the parade, which will also spotlight a number of area organizations.
Local children are also invited to take part in the parade, and a bicycle decorating contest will take place. Children with decorated bicycles can ride along in the parade, and the decorations will be judged upon the parade’s conclusion. One boy and one girl will be selected to win a new bicycle.
Local organizations represented at the festival will include the Unicoi History Committee, Clinchfield Senior Adult Center, Habitat for Humanity, Unicoi County Health Department, Jericho Temple Shriners, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department and several local faith-based organizations. Activities will include a dunking booth, cow train rides and inflatables for children, and a cornhole tournament.
Food vendors will sell a variety of fare including barbecue, fried potatoes, authentic Mexican food, funnel cakes and strawberry desserts.
Musical entertainment is planned throughout the day. The Jerry Sams Band will take the stage from 10 a.m. to noon, Ravenwood will perform from noon until 2 p.m. and Decker & Skinner with the Blue Ridge Cut-Ups will perform from 2-4 p.m.
Of course, the main attraction of the festival is the strawberries. Unicoi-based Scott’s Strawberry and Tomato Farms will once again be on hand to sell strawberries at the festival.
“There’s going to be plenty of strawberries for sale,” Campbell said.
Admission to the festival is free.
Applications for organizations interested in participating in the parade will be accepted until Friday. Friday also marks the deadline for those interested in participating in the strawberry recipe contest to submit forms to Unicoi Town Hall.
For more information on the festival, call Unicoi Town Hall at 743-7162.