New Meet the Mountains festival encourages outdoor lifestyle

Zach Vance • Updated Feb 21, 2018 at 11:41 PM

Those living in Northeast Tennessee might take for granted the sheer abundance of natural outdoor assets available right outside our backdoor.

But beginning this year, a festival spread across three communities will showcase and promote the whole range of the region’s recreational amenities.

On Wednesday, local outdoor business owners, in conjunction with the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, officially announced the Meet the Mountains Festival presented by Ballad Health in Founders Park on Aug. 24 and 25.

“This festival will foster collaboration among various user groups that are passionate about the outdoors,” Kayla Carter, outdoor development manager for NETREP said. “The goal is to have this free festival serve as an annual coming together of the region’s outdoor community.”

While Founders Park will serve as the heart or “basecamp” of the festival, recreational off-site events will be held in nearby Erwin and Elizabethton.

“We also want to encourage partnership by cross-promoting existing or new events and competitions that take place throughout the region on this particular week,” Carter said. “We also welcome other businesses and organizations to apply as a vendor or support the festival by offering to host an information session.”

Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Director of Sales Jenna Moore said organizers are also hopeful the event fosters collaboration between user groups and outdoor recreation clubs.

“But most of all, we just this festival to get people excited to get out, get moving and be active,” Moore said.

Vendors, outdoor brands and some nonprofit groups will set up tables inside Founders Park, where they will be organized based on which user groups or activities they target.

“When you come to the event, you’ll find lots of hands-on experiences, demonstrations and activities throughout the festival, and we’re going to break those up into three different zones: air, water and earth,” Moore said.

Overmountain Outdoors’ owner Matt Whitson said he envisioned the air zone containing activities like slacklining, rock climbing, disc golf, yoga and zip lining.

“Of course, not all of those can be held on site. There will be more information for that at the basecamp of the festival,” Whitson said.

Chad Wolfe, owner of Trek Bikes, said the earth zone will likely be the largest of the zones, promoting such activities as mountain biking, road biking, hiking and caving.

“We’re certainly looking forward to the result the creation of this festival can have on the region to demonstrate how much amazing resources that we have available to us right here in our region,” Wolfe said.

Matt Moses with USA Raft and Mountain River Guides mentioned the water zone incorporating fishing and whitewater rafting, in addition to paddle board and kayak demonstrations.

“Those you will be able to do right here at Founders Park, which is going to be a really awesome way for people to try this out and maybe get some entry into a new activity,” Moses said.

While she said it would be awesome to do the kayak demonstrations in Brush Creek, Carter said the demonstrations will likely be done in an inflatable pool.

Water outdoor recreation has been a hot topic as of late, since the “Surf Betsy” campaign launched last week with the goal of bringing a whitewater park to Elizabethton.

Organizers are encouraging any event creators to partner with the festival for cross promotion. For more information, go online to www.mtmfest.com or call the NETREP office at 423-202-3510. You can also email [email protected] with questions about the festival.

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