Zyleigh Hayden is quite pleased with her Miss Kitty facepainting. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
ELIZABETHTON — While admiring the geese and children playing in the Doe River, which runs underneath the Queen of the Doe, Tom and Valerie Grill said they were just arriving for the last day of the 47th annual Covered Bridge Celebration on Saturday.
The Grills were taking time to reminisce that day while the rest of the community was busy with other activities at the event.
“Back when we lived here before, we got to drive across the bridge,” Tom said. “Over the years they have, probably wisely, stopped traffic from going through there.”
Click here to view a gallery of photos from Saturday at the festival.
“We came back because we wanted to check out the cars, crafts and music,” Valerie said. “This is really nice.”
Since 1973, the Grills have owned a farm in Carter County, but moved to Florida for 20 years.
“We kept our farm in Carter County so that when we were finished with Florida we could come back to where we really want to live and this is the place,” Tom said.
While they were in Florida, the Grills said they noticed there have been a lot of changes to the Covered Bridge Celebration to which they used to bring their children.
“They’ve changed the festival from the first time we were here,” Grill said. “The covered bridge is very scenic and the water is scenic and now that they’ve put the vendors in with the trees, it’s really nice because it’s almost like being in the woods. It’s a lot different from when you’re walking on the main street with the hot asphalt.”
Just like on the Covered Bridge, traffic was stopped, but only temporarily, on East Elk Avenue to allow the community and visitors to enjoy a festival atmosphere and activities.
Gate City resident Michelle Thomas said her whole family came to the celebration, which was a bonus because they come to Elizabethton at least once a month for the Cruise-In. The Cruise-In was in conjunction with the festival this month.
Thomas said the event had a lot of variety in their vendors and she enjoyed having many things to look through.
“I like live music and all the vendors and food,” Thomas said.
She also praised the organizers for having something for every member of her family to do.
“I like that it’s family-oriented,” Thomas said. “The kids really like all the inflatables.”
A detail unique to the celebration this year, said Covered Bridge Celebration Events and Marketing Coordinator Stephanie McKinney, is that the festival was expanded to four days.
“Originally, it started off being called Country Music Days,” McKinney said. “There were no vendors involved whatsoever. Over the years, committees changed and they carried on the festival. They actually cut it down to a three-day festival then the Chamber of Commerce took it over and started incorporating arts and crafts around 1983. This year we actually expanded it back to a four-day festival so we’re kind of jumping around and playing around with it.”
McKinney said organizers have hopes to bring the festival back to its original time span.
“The festival used to be a weeklong festival when they first created it,” McKinney said. “We’d like to get it back to the way it originally was.”
No matter the festival’s length, McKinney said the tradition keeps people coming back to see each other while recalling and creating happy memories.
“I think it’s really exciting for the public and community of Elizabethton and Carter County,” McKinney said. “This is one of the biggest events annually that takes place in Elizabethon and Carter County. It a really great way for everyone in the community to come out, be involved and get to see each other.”