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Blue Plum prepares to pack downtown Johnson City

June 1st, 2013 9:11 pm by Jennifer Sprouse

Blue Plum prepares to pack downtown Johnson City

From high energy bands to local food vendors and unique craftsmen, the 14th Annual Blue Plum Festival promises to have just the right mix for all who visit this year.

On Thursday night, the streets of downtown will shut down and vendors will start the unloading process of their various foods, merchandise and crafts that will be on sale during the three day event.

Wrapping up a volunteers’ meeting on Tuesday, Jimmy Pierce, volunteer coordinator of the festival, said his crew will be ready to go for setup on Thursday and said so far everything has run smoothly.

“Right now we’re just gathering up all (of) the volunteers, trying to get everybody together and see how many we’re going to have,” he said. “We have stage setup Thursday night and then ... I’ve got some people coming (and) helping (on) Friday with me.”

Pierce said the volunteers — ranging from high school and college students and other community members — play an important role during festival time. He said volunteer duties will vary with tasks such as stage setup and take down, manning the gateway, as well as helping with the Blue Plum 5K.

Check out photos from the 2012 Blue Plum festival.

“It would be such a headache to have ... only maybe a handful of people to take care of everything,” he said. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people.”

On Friday, the festival will open at 11 a.m., with arts and crafts vendor booths on the streets in downtown and a Kid’s Area at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church.

The Kid’s Area, sponsored by Chaparral Buick, GMC Trucks, Northeast Community Credit Union and Munsey, will host a variety of activities, including Water Wars, where kids use a slingshot to blast water balloons at others across from them.

Blue Plum Director Brandi Woodall said other Kid’s Area activities will include bouncy houses, crafts, as well as a T-shirt tie-dying station sponsored by Hands On! Regional Museum.

“Throughout the festival you’ll see face-painters. There will be a lot of just ... child-related activities,” Woodall said. “Extreme Sports will be back this year.”

The 3rd Annual Urban Art Throwdown, a two-day graffiti art competition also will be back this year, with the loose themes of railroads, music or recycling. 

Participating artists will be given a 6-foot-by-10-foot canvas where they can design and create on in the Throwdown area, now located on South Roan Street.

“Last year we had it in the enclosed parking lot downtown. With parking being ... sought after, especially during this festival, we just felt like expanding it up a little bit made more sense. It really kind of puts the Urban Art Throwdown in ... an activity realm,” Woodall said.

The competition will start on Friday from 3-8 p.m. and continue again on Saturday from 3-8 p.m. Judging will start at 8 p.m. Saturday and winning artists will be awarded $1,000 for first place, $400 for second place and $200 for third place.

According to the festival’s website, another arts-driven competition — the Recycled Materials Arts Contest — will take place this year and feature fine art created from recycled materials, including paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, tin and scrap metal.

Registration for the event will be on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and judging will start at 7 p.m. Monetary prizes will be given to those placing first, second and third in the competition.

The Little City Roller Girls will also be set up in a lot at Tipton and Spring streets from 6-11 p.m. and an Animation Festival, hosted by East Tennessee State University, will be going on at various time in the old JC Penney building next to Hands On!

Headliners for Friday night’s Main Street Stage are Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCoury’s, starting at 8:45 p.m.

On Saturday, the Kid’s Area, Animation Festival and Roller Girls will be back again for another day of activities, as well as the Blue Plum 7’s Rugby Tournament, which will take place at Civitan Park from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Also on Saturday, the Blue Plum 5K will start at 9 a.m. at the Lady of the Fountain on Main Street.

“We’ve had several hundred go ahead and sign up,” Woodall said. “Of course, we’re taking pre-registrations now through June 6 and the first 800 pre-registrations either online or by mail ... receive a T-shirt.”

Pre-race packet pickup and alternative registration will be by the Lady of the Fountain on Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and race-day registration and packet pickup will be from 7-8:15 a.m., according to the Blue Plum website.

Woodall said corn hole will still be available during the festival, but said it will no longer be considered a tournament and will just be a free play area.

“We’re going to put out corn hole boards and we’ll have volunteers up there. We’ve got some old vintage T-shirts we’re going to clear out of the inventory and kind of hand those out to people coming to play,” she said.

The corn hole area will be set up on Buffalo Street near the food court.

Celtic rock band Scythian will headline the Main Street Stage Saturday at 9 p.m.

The Johnson City Omnium, a two-day amateur and professional bike race will take place on Saturday and Sunday in Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties, including the Franklin Woods Community Hospital Criterium in downtown Johnson City.

While racers in the Criterium bike race will be competing from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, a new addition to the festival will make its debut.

“A lot of the churches are kind of displaced because of the race. It’s just a traffic pattern thing. They can’t get into where their churches are and so we had a few volunteers step up and they organized what we’re (calling) the Blue Plum Revival,” Woodall said. “We’re going to leave the Jazz stage up. We’ll have live music out there. We want to try to grow that into a major component of the festival. I don’t want people to feel like the fun stops on Saturday night.”

Musical entertainment for the Blue Plum Revival will include Matt Sanders and best-selling author Steven James, Kick Snare Crash, Jamin and the CWB from Trinity Arts Center and The Ricky Hilton Project.

Other than the headliners each day of the festival, Woodall said there will be a lot of other great musical acts on the Main Street, Jazz and Local stages.

Artists and art vendors also will be present throughout the festival grounds, including painters and jewelry makers.

In the food court, festival participants will find a variety of items, such as blooming onions, gyros, pitas, slushies, as well as festival favorites including kettle corn and funnel cakes.

Credit and debit cards will be accepted at the Blue Plum this year, including for merchandise and beverage sales.

For those 21 and up wishing to drink alcohol outside a restaurant or bar during the festival, they must buy a wristband to take their beverage out on the street. Wristbands will available on Friday and Saturday and are $5 each day.

For more information about the Blue Plum Festival, visit

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