Hot dogs, popcorn, soda, pretzels and funnel cakes can be found at just about any fair or street festival, but the food made available by the painstaking efforts of the Blue Plum Festival’s organizers is evident with just about every bite.
That’s not to say you can’t get the traditional festival food, but Blue Plum Festival food court Chairman Kevin Jones hopes to give you reason to try something new.
Putting his efforts where his mouth is, Jones did his research, attending other events to find the most interesting vendors available and opened the application process to the many regional vendors who want to serve up food at the Blue Plum.
“You’ve got all your staples,” he said. “But you’ll also get a chance to try something new.”
Not big on repeat vendors, Jones and the other organizers want to keep things fresh to get people to keep coming back. Some of this year’s featured spots will include dishes like hand-crafted ice cream sandwiches from Sunshine Sammies, which Jones said appeared to be about six inches tall when he saw them, bacon pops, Gouda macaroni and cheese, gumbo and jumbalaya, steak fries and fresh, and hand-squeezed lemonade, just to name a few.
Greenville, South Carolina’s Jack Albergotti, representing Southland Concession, will be serving up the cajun chicken and sausage gumbo, jumbalaya, wood-grilled chicken on a stick and more from their red- and white-bannered spot downtown all weekend. Albergotti said he couldn’t be more appreciative for the chance to serve such a hungry and happy Blue Plum crowd, with his fellow vendors and that’s solely because of the organizers’ efforts to focus on real food.
“These are pretty much the best food vendors in the three-state area,” he said, pointing out that Blue Plum takes in 22 of the finest portable food providers in North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Serving food in the downtown area, Albergotti’s noticed, also gives a prime opportunity for the ever-revitalizing downtown area to strut its stuff.
“This is a such a chance for Johnson City to showcase the downtown area,” he said.
It’s not only food providers who are brought in from other areas that show what the downtown streets have to offer, but also the businesses that are already established there. Managers from Numan’s, Main Street Pizza Company and Holy Taco all said they plan for Blue Plum well ahead of time, even up to two months before the event takes place.
Elizabeth Helbert, one of the managers at Holy Taco, said they take on new employees just to field the rush they’ll get this upcoming weekend.
Foot traffic will increase the amount of people who come through the door and because they sell alcohol they take extra precautions to make sure they’re only serving alcohol to those over 21 years old. She said the best way to combat fake IDs is through well-trained employees.
Numan’s bar business certainly increases as well and they typically only hit their maximum occupancy number of 326 people during Blue Plum.
It’s well known that people who like to drink also like to eat and that’s where the vendors can excel in getting their food in the tummies of people who attend the festival.
Louis Childers, from Creston, South Carolina, is bringing in his bacon pops and Gouda macaroni and cheese to Johnson City with the hopes of selling to every hungry person there. His bacon pops are made of what he said was the thickest cuts of bacon he can buy, marinaded in honey, soy sauce and spices then baked to a caramelized pop shape. He said he’s proud to have his pops and food be a part of such a unique menu, and though he doesn’t usually do street festivals, the musical lineup at the Blue Plum is the main reason he decided to come back this year.
As for the prices for each vendor, Jones said he also researched that and his vendors are charging the same prices they would everywhere else and, as is the case with most other handcrafted products, you pay for what you get. You can get cheaper food, he said, but it’s not going to be as good.
The food court at the Blue Plum, he said, is, in his opinion, the best food court in the Tri-Cities, and he stands by that.
For more information about the Blue Plum, including a schedule of events, go to www.blueplum.org.
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