Vendors set up Thursday night for the 14th Annual Blue Plum Festival. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Parked alongside Market Street in downtown Johnson City Thursday night was Thurman Dykes’ truck and trailer carrying a canopy tent, tables, as well as all the fixings for the funnel cakes he and his wife will be selling at this year’s 14th Annual Blue Plum Festival.
Dykes and his wife, joined by the other vendors setting up in the downtown area around 7 p.m. Thursday, were quickly pulling items out of their trailer in order to be set up before the start of the festival Friday at 11 a.m.
Gray natives, Dykes said they’ve been vendors of the Blue Plum for 11 years and said he was impressed with the coordination of the festival so far.
“They’ve got it organized. That’s the biggest thing,” he said.
Across the way, Bill Embry was busy setting up Embry Concessions, where he will be selling fried green tomato, bacon, cheese sandwiches; fried mushrooms on a stick; fried zucchini with parmesan cheese; hand-dipped corn dogs, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs; lemonade; limeade and cherry limeade drinks.
Only given until 10 p.m. to set up, Embry said he would be utilizing the whole three hours to set up his canopy, freezer, seven deep fryers, grill and tables.
“This is ... about our fifth or sixth year here,” he said. “We enjoy it because it’s close to home. There’s always a lot of people here.”
Two members of the local nonprofit group, Bennah Empowering Through Strategic Training (B.E.S.T.), were busy setting up their tent and banners for the festival Thursday night.
Handerson Bennah, originally from Liberia, West Africa, said his organization, while they have many goals, are at the Blue Plum Festival this year to promote their work of gathering school supplies for Liberian school children, as well as their plans for renovating and expanding on an existing school they support in his home country.
Centrally located on East Main Street, Bennah said people visiting the organization’s tent will be able to view some African artifacts, as well as images from Liberia.
The Kids Area, full of kid-friendly activities and crafts, will open with the festival at 11 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. in the parking area of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church near Market Street.
As Kids Area activities wrap up, a mix of artists will be popping open cans of spray paint from 3-8 p.m. to kick off the first day of competition for the 3rd Annual Urban Art Throwdown.
The Throwdown will be featured in a new location this year on South Roan Street in front of Munsey church.
The two-day Blue Plum Animation Festival will start Friday, showing more than 50 short films from around the world, as well as two shorts created by East Tennessee State University Digital Media students, in the old JC Penney building next to Hands On! Regional Museum.
The Little City Roller Girls will also be showcased two days of the festival, starting Friday from 6-11 p.m. in the parking lot between Tipton and Spring streets.
Live music will begin at 4:15 p.m. on the Main Street Stage, sponsored this year by ETSU and ETSU Online, and will close with headliners Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCoury’s, performing at 8:45 p.m.
Music on the Jazz and Local stages will start at 5 p.m., including musical acts Ryan Sheffield and the Highhills, El Movimineto, Lenore Raphael and Wayne Graham.
Other vendors — food, art and merchandise — will be scattered throughout the downtown area, offering a little bit of everything for festival-goers.
For more information on the Blue Plum Festival, visit www.blueplum.org.