Dale Woods, Darwin Booker and David Panganiban are among the many food vendors serving at the Covered Bridge Festival.
ELIZABETHTON — Wednesday was billed as Gospel and Worship Night at the 47th Annual Covered Bridge Celebration, but it was also setup day for the many arts and crafts and food vendors who help attract people to the fair each year.
Workers scurried about, setting up booths, tents, mobile kitchens and the big stage. Most of the work couldn’t be done until today, because many of the locations are on city streets and couldn’t be erected until after the streets were barricaded Wednesday.
As is usual with the Covered Bridge Celebration, the Elk Avenue Bridge is closed. All of downtown is accessible by car, but barricades prevent drivers from going east to the courthouse. The best alternative is to take Broad Street.
Today's Music Lineup
• 4 p.m.: The Adam Larkey Band
• 5 p.m.: Hollow Ground
• 6-7 p.m.: Cooking with Grass
• 7:15 p.m.: The Fiddlin’ Carson Peters Band
• 8:30 p.m.: The Boxcars
Many of the vendors were already in place by midday Wednesday and all of the food vendors were in place but still setting up. Despite the competition, most vendors said they see each other at most festivals in the region and most have become friends. Most have been to the Covered Bridge Festival many times.
This is the third time for Ken Packer of Packer’s Concessions. He specializes in Johnsonville brats and “gourmet lemonade. “My lemonade is made from scratch and it is all made by hand,” Packer said. The drink comes with whole strawberries, raspberries or cherries.
Packer said he always has a good week at the festival and it has a special place in his heart because it was the first big festival he worked.
His friends on the other side of the street, Acie and Star Mullins of Little Delights, have been doing it for a lot longer time. They became food vendors when they retired from their first career. That was 15 years ago and they now do about 25 shows a year. Even with all their experience, they enjoy coming to the Covered Bridge.
“This is a good event,” Acie said. “Its always fun to come to the Covered Bridge.”
They feature some interesting variations on festival fare, including the potato twister dog. That is a potato that has been turned into a spiral by a special cutting machine. The sprial has a hole in the middle which is filled with a hot dog. The whole concoction is fired to perfection.
“You get your meat and potatoes together on a stick,” Star said.
Another veteran Covered Bridge food vendor is DNA Concessions, owned by Darwin Booker.
Booker’s specialties include blooming onions, fried green tomatoes, crazy taters, deep fried Oreos and funnel cakes.
Booker said he is hoping for good weather this week. “This is our fifth show of the year and so far, it has rained at every one of them.”
Across the street, at the corner of the bridge stands another veteran, Salt and Pepper/Mama’s Lemonade. They have been in business for more than 20 years and have been coming to the Covered Bridge Celebration for more than 10 years.
They have a wide selection that includes footlong hand-dipped corn dogs, Philly cheese steaks, Polish sausage and deep fried bologna.
There will be plenty of live entertainment to go along with the festival food.
Stephanie McKinney, events and marketing coordinator for the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce said “we have a good lineup every night. Thursday night is Bluegrass Night and we will have The Boxcars. If you haven’t seen them, you really need to, because they can really burn it up.”
“We also have Jamie O’Neal on Friday night,” McKinney said .
One change for this year is that the traditional closing act for the festival, The Collegians are now retired.
“Many people have said they miss not having the Collegians, but we have replaced them with the best ’80s cover band ever, The Breakfast Club.
Tonight is Bluegrass Night. The entertainment gets started at 4.