Friday’s first night of Johnson City’s 14th annual Blue Plum Festival successfully brought people together through its many displays of music and art.
2013 Blue Plum Festival Director Brandi Woodall said music makes the festival come alive and is a huge part of its appeal.
“That’s when it feels real, when you start hearing the music play,” Woodall said.
Woodhall said the festival gives people a chance to see what it’s like to be outside in a downtown community enjoying high-caliber music.
“We see it come around once a year, and so in Johnson City it’s kind of like a homecoming for a lot of people,” Woodall said.
Be sure to check out all of our festival coverage on the special Blue Plum page on JohnsonCityPress.com.
The Barefoot Movement initiated Blue Plum’s Friday night music line up at the Main Street Stage.
Bassist Hasee Ciaccio said the festival brought the band back home to Johnson City after touring out West.
“We had a pretty nice time,” Ciaccio said. “It was really, really great to come back home and do a hometown show since we are based out of here. It was really nice to be back in East Tennessee.”
Johnson City music instructor Jon Tipton said variety in music is what he looks for most in a festival.
“They are trying to have a good variety,” Tipton said. “It’s hard to please everybody, but I think they are doing a good job.”
Tipton said the music isn’t limited to on-stage acts. He said musicians performing on the street have a lot to gain and offer, too.
“It adds a good street atmosphere and that’s part of the festival atmosphere,” Tipton said. “It keeps it honest. It gives people an opportunity to be heard that wouldn’t normally be heard.”
Overall, Tipton said the festival is positive for the community as a whole.
“Like everybody else, I know it’s great for the community,” Tipton said. “It’s giving some people some exposure, not just musicians, but artists and local establishments trying to get started.”
While watching a man juggle a guitar, knife and shoe, Johnson City residents Bennett Fuselier and Jenni Cocchia said they decided to bring their son, Banyan, out to experience all the festival offers.
“We come to listen to music, see our friends, check out the local vendors and see some graffiti art,” Cocchia said.
Having owned a shop downtown and being a Little City Roller Girls fanatic, Cocchia said this was the first year she was able to enjoy the festival strictly as a participant.
“It’s nice,” Cocchia said. “We get to come, relax and not work.”
Fuselier said he always enjoys seeing all of the street performances.
“Street performers are a blast,” Fuselier said.
“I think we need more of it,” Cocchia said.
With more music, art and food promised for today, Fuselier and Cocchia said they plan on making their way back for a second day of fun.
“We’ll stop by tomorrow, too,” Fuselier said.
But for Friday, Cocchia said she was excited to see Keller Williams play with the Travelin’ McCourys, which was the group of musicians that brought the Main Street Stage’s music to a close Friday.
Although they didn’t come to see a particular band, Yancy and Valda Grimmett said it’s great to have music in the background of any festival experience.
Friday was the only day of this year’s festival that they were able to bring their three children Laney, Max and Lilli, but they have come ever since it started.
One of their daughters was eager to explain what she thinks the festival is all about.
“Just having fun,” Laney said.
Valda Grimmett said she enjoys how easy it is to entertain her children at the event.
“There’s a lot to do,” she said. “They have lots of rides for the children.”
Yancy Grimmett said he enjoys seeing local people help each other out.
“I like all the local crafts,” he said. “Local people can make things and sell them to local people.”
Also a fan of the vendors selected for the festival every year, Tito Lott said he is always able to find something unique.
“There are a lot of tents with neat stuff,” Lott said. “They different stuff I’ve never seen before in my life.”
Lott’s friend, Amanda Smith, said the festival gives locals something to look forward to every year and showcases Johnson City’s culture to guests from out of town.
“It’s really homey here,” Smith said. “It really brings you into Johnson City. It’s welcoming you and says ‘This is what it’s like here and this is how we are.’ ”
Rain around midday didn’t bring the spirit of the first day down. Woodall said rain has impacted the festival most on Fridays and has even become an inside joke for festival workers.
“We call it the inevitable rain,” Woodall said. “I told someone this morning that it was OK because you can’t grow a plum tree without a little rain.”