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Plum job: Friends putting finishing touches on Blue Plum Festival

June 1st, 2014 9:57 pm by Tony Casey

Plum job: Friends putting finishing touches on Blue Plum Festival

Three cheers for a three-day event in downtown Johnson City that focuses on providing the Tri-Cities a large-scale free event.

The 15th Blue Plum Festival, put on by the Friends of Olde Downtowne, running Friday through June 8, will include all the favorites — a bicycle race, foot race, hands-on activities for adults and kids alike, concerts, and more — as well as the addition of the Blue Hop Brew-Haha, a three-hour craft beer-lover’s dream.

“We want everyone to have a unique experience,” Blue Plum media spokeswoman Dianna Canter said.

Storytelling for adults and kids through East Tennessee State University and Jonesborough’s Storytelling Guild, a roller derby tournament, food courts, a Kidscape Art Project and Lady of the Fountain brick unveiling are just some of the items filling out the list of events. Some of the food highlights Cantler pointed to was the inclusion of unique eats like Sunshine Sammies, which are ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies, as well as bacon pops, Gouda macaroni and cheese, veggie kabobs and the normal festival food.

For the items they serve, Cantler said it’s important they don’t have three people selling doughnuts or multiple people selling anything.

“We never want to be selling two of one item,” she said.

The same policy is taken with the musical acts that will grace the stages at the Southern, Fountain and Jazz stages throughout the weekend. Some of the acts included are the Great Smokey Mountain Bluegrass Band, the Harris Brothers, the Empty Bottle String Band, Hillbilly Bad, Mike Knowles, Robinella, The Symphony Rags, Humming House, Option 22 and more. Check out the Blue Plum’s website for a complete listing.

June 8 will have the Omnium Criterium Bike Race, sponsored by Franklin Woods Community Hospital, with both amateur and professional races. Races will start at 8 a.m. for the non-professionals and 2:30 p.m. for professionals. More music, food and arts and crafts will be available during the races.

Saturday’s Blue Plum Fast 5K is nothing new to the festival, with hundreds having taken part each year. It starts and finishes on the railroad tracks downtown, but this year things are a little different. Along with a non-competitive dress-up walk to go along with the race, We Run Events’ Hank Brown, who laid out the old course that ran through downtown and into the eastern portion of the city before returning to the start, is excited about the layout this year.

“I think it’s one of those courses that runs well,” Brown said.

The new course, which can be seen on the Blue Plum’s website, starts downtown near the Lady of the Fountain but avoids the train tracks, which has delayed the race momentarily in the past due to passing trains. It runs up Spring Street to West Maple, which brings runners all the way to ETSU campus and back on Maple before a slightly downhill run down Buffalo Street to the finish.

Brown pointed to the race T-shirt, which has been displayed for a few weeks on social media, which has a tuxedo look to it.

The non-competitive walking portion of the event is going to be a display or parade of formal wear called Dress Up for Downtown, in which participants are encouraged to wear old prom dresses and their most creative interpretation of formal running fashions. Cantler said an award will be given to the person who dresses up the best.

With Holston Distributing and Bud Light as the main sponsor of the family-friendly festival, responsible but enjoyable drinking is encouraged at the Blue Hop Brew-Haha, which is set to take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday. The event, brought by Superfly Fabulous Events, will offer the chance for local craft beer lovers to enjoy regional beers. Green Man and Holston River breweries will be there with many others for the tasting, all at the cost of $20 to the first people to sign up through Limited space is available, only for the first 200 people to sign up.

Holston Distributing will continue its Sober Ride program in which bartenders will have $10 vouchers for people to use with cab companies for a safe ride home.

“Our goal is to provide resources to the Friends of Olde Dowtowne,” said Frank Wood of Holston Distributing. “We have worked with the bar owners and the police in encouraging a zero tolerance for underage drinking and responsible drinking for those who are of age.”

Wristbands will be available at a cost to those who are over 21 and would like to drink. They can be purchased at special booths.

Limited edition festival gear will also be available to those who want to purchase items that will ultimately, with wristband sales, help keep the festival a free event.

“We feel that the Blue Plum Festival is one of the best three-day festivals in the region. We encourage everyone to show their Blue Plum love by purchasing some of the limited-edition festival merchandise,” says Jenny Lockmiller, Friends of Olde Downtowne board chairwoman.

Organizers say the commemorative cups will cut back on the amount of trash generated by non-reusable cups.

The event is still looking for volunteers to work a variety of jobs. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or with any questions about the festival can go to or email

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