As Jonesborough Days gets under way, local shops like Hands Around the World in Jonesborough were hopping in advance of the festival kick off Friday at 5p.m. (Sue Legg/Johnson City Press)
Jonesborough shops and restaurants were doing brisk business hours in advance of Friday night’s kickoff of the annual Jonesborough Days celebration as a break in the weather brought a crowd to town early.
“Business picks up when they have these festivals. It makes a difference,” said Jill Dyson, manager of the Mountain Mart on West Jackson Boulevard. “That’s just common sense. The later it gets, the more it picks up. We’ve had a lot of out-of-state people this afternoon.”
In the downtown festival district, Rob Parks at Earth & Sky Confections was one of the many pleasantly surprised by the early turnout. With the festival’s start still three hours away, Parks said. “It’s been amazingly busy and it hasn’t even started yet. ... It starts at 5 and they’re all here.”
“We’re always grateful for any special event or festival,” said Jeff Gurley, owner of The Lollipop Shop and president of the Jonesborough Merchants Association.
“For a lot of us, Jonesborough Days and Storytelling (Festival) is almost like having a 13th month, a bonus month each year for our business. Last year was bust when it was 4,000 degrees out here. But this year, it’s been surprisingly good. Surprisingly because it hasn’t even started yet, the Fourth being on Thursday, the inclement weather and the 5 o’clock start.
“It’s been good for us. We hope it’s good for everybody.”
Steve Cook, owner of Jonesborough Art Glass, said, “I’ve been here for 35 of these, and to a lot of people Jonesborough Days is a reunion. It’s a homecoming. That kind of exposure for your business you can’t buy.”
Even if the annual Fourth of July celebration doesn’t bring the Art Glass shop the same boost to sales it sees during the National Storytelling Festival, Cook’s not complaining. “People want to come to town and get a funnel cake or a snow cone and we’re glad to be here with them and for all of us to be together.”
While this year’s Jonesborough Days celebration is the first for the Jonesborough General Store & Eatery, owner Dean Chestnut obviously has the crowd figured out.
On the run from his stockroom to his newly expanded ice cream counter, Chestnut apologized for being too busy to stop for an interview.
“Its been great,” he said during a quick dash out the door to say hello to a friend at a vending booth in front of his shop. “The weather is perfect. If this is 75 percent chance of rain, I’ll take it. I hope it’s like this tomorrow.”
“Definitely, for one weekend bringing me business, Jonesborough Days is second only to the Storytelling Festival,” said Janet Browning, owner of the Hands Around the World shop that features hand-made gifts from countries worldwide.
“It’s also weather-driven,” Browning said. “Last year it was 103 and it was a terrible year. Today is pleasant. We’ve already had a good crowd. I think its going to be a good one. I hope so, because we all need it.”