The Covered Bridge Festival started off with Gospel music Wednesday. Performers included the Primitive Quartet. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
ELIZABETHTON — Wednesday was the day for a wide range of vendors to set up at the Covered Bridge Celebration. The arts and crafts vendors are located in the Covered Bridge Park and the food vendors are located in the traditional food court area adjacent to Edwards Island.
The arts and crafts vendors are carefully screened each year. No mass produced items are allowed. The results are that many of the arts and crafts stands are filled with many one-of-a-kind items for sale.
While the arts and crafts are restricted, there are many vendors who have been coming to the festival for years. That is not the case for John Diaz of Blountville, who is showing his leather goods for the first time at any festival.
“I took leather working in high school in 1959,” Diaz said. It was an easy grade and Diaz though he would never again use the skills he learned in the class. But last year, Diaz felt the urge to start working with leather again.
It was a cold winter, which allowed Diaz to develop his skills and build up an inventory. He also took additional classes with Tandy Leatherwork in Knoxville.
He had his leather wallets, cell phone covers, and belts on display. His pride is the belts he has made. He has them priced around $45 to $65, which is not bad considering it takes him about 18 hours to make one of the elaborate creations.
An artist who has been working at her craft much longer is Sherry Shaner of Frederick, Md. Not many artists travel that far for the Covered Bridge Celebration, but Shaner is a native who graduated from Elizabethton High School and uses the trip as a chance to visit with her mother.
Shaner is a specialist in medieval arts. She is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms and has made chainmail shirts for modern day jousters.
Shaner has developed her chainmail techniques into some very unusual and beautiful jewelry. She also designs jewelry for theatrical costumes.
The food court vendors are are also regulars to the celebration, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something new to offer.
Darwin Booker of D & A Concessions has created a twist on peach cobbler that he calls Peaches and Cream. He takes a peach, coats it in batter and drops in the deep fat fryer. As soon as it comes out, he sprinkles it with cinnamon. He then tops it with cream cheese.
For an added treat, he directs his customers two booths down to Dwight Lacey’s homemade ice cream stand. Lacey uses an old timey hit and miss engine to stir his dasher, but the ice cream is real homemade. His strawberry ice cream is made with local strawberries and he grows his own blueberries for his blueberry ice cream.
Tonight is Bluegrass Night, with some great acts to entertain the crowd. Thursday is also the night of the popular Ice Cream Social in Covered Bridge Park, sponsored by Food City. That event is so popular because at 5 p.m. the festival goers are treated to free ice cream to cool off after a hot day.
The music will start at 4 p.m. with the Dennis Cove Band. At 5 p.m., Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome will perform. At 6 p.m., fresh from his appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno will be 10-year-old Carson Peters and the Fiddlin’ Carson Peters Band. At 7:15 p.m., Adkins and Loudermilk will take the stage. Russel Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out will take the stage at 8:45 p.m.
There are four nights of music again this year.