Annual Unicoi strawberry festival set for Saturday

Brad Hicks • May 15, 2014 at 10:34 AM

UNICOI — The third Saturday in May marks the day in which the town of Unicoi invites the public to join it in celebrating the local strawberry harvest, and this year’s celebration promises to be the biggest yet.

The town will hold its annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival on Saturday. The festival will start with a parade at 9 a.m. at the Unicoi Funeral Home. The parade route will travel down Unicoi Drive to the field adjacent to Unicoi Elementary School on Massachusetts Avenue, where opening ceremonies for the festival will start at approximately 10 a.m.

Admission to the festival is free.

“We try to keep it as close to an old-fashioned festival as we can,” said town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch. “We’re glad we’ve been able to keep it that way over the years and maintain that type of festival. It’s just a fun time for everyone. It’s a relaxing atmosphere, and everyone is welcome to come down and enjoy the festivities.”

The festival has experienced growth over the years, not only in attendance, but also in its number of events and attractions for attendees. The kickoff parade was added to the festival four years ago. This year, the festival has been expanded to include a singing competition, a cutest pet contest and a silent auction. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn a few arts and crafts.

The finals of the first-ever Tunes of the Valley singing competition will take place Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Unicoi Elementary School. Here, the public can vote for their favorite contestant by placing pennies or the town’s wooden buffalo nickels in a bucket assigned to each contestant. Since January, the town has run a number of promotions to give locals opportunities to acquire these nickels ahead of the festival. The winner of the competition will be announced Saturday near the end of the festival at around 5 p.m.

A second contest, the Pet Palooza, will be held Saturday. The public is invited to show off their pets, and awards in categories such as cutest dog, best in show and best trick will be given, and a pet/owner lookalike contest will be held. Like the Tunes of the Valley competition, the public will be voting on these pet competitions.

Another new addition this year is that of a silent auction. Both cash and the town’s wooden buffalo nickels can be used for the silent auction, which will include items such as dinner for eight from the Bonefish Grill, valued at $400, tickets for six to the Comedy Zone, valued at $140, a car detail from Bill Gatton dealerships valued at $150, and hotel packages from the Hampton Inn, Carnegie Hotel and Mountain Inn.

Attendees will have the opportunity at the festival to do things such as make their own jump ropes and learn origami.

Live music has been an integral part on the festival since its beginning, and this year will be no different. This year’s acts will include the Sons of Bluegrass, which will take the stage at 10 a.m., the Adam Larkey Band, which will perform beginning at noon, and Dasi Rain, whose performance will begin at 4:30 p.m. The East Tennessee Celtic Society will also be on hand, performing music and dance.

With the emphasis on the arts, as well as the heritage of the area and the legacy of Wayne Scott of Scott Farms, town officials are calling this year’s festival the Wayne Scott Arts and Heritage Festival.

Booths for local nonprofit organizations will once again be set up, selling food and crafts throughout the day. Of course, the main attraction of the festival is the strawberries themselves, and some vendors, such as the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center of Erwin, will be selling desserts, including strawberry sundaes, glazed strawberry pie, strawberry shortcake and strawberry cupcakes.

For more information, call Unicoi Town Hall at 743-7162.

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