There will be more classes, more clinics and more opportunity to outdoor adventure sports. A lot of last year’s favorites will return, like the Ultimate Air Dogs and it will still be free. Founders Park will host the event, but will have a new layout and a little more room, which means more vendors, too.
Gavin Andrews, director of sports development for the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that one goal is to break away from the walk-through-and-look posture found at some festivals. Many feel the Meet the Mountains is more about experiencing something rather than spectating.
“Everything at Founders Park is going to be free,” Andrews said. “We are committed to keeping it free for all the folks that attend those events. We are planning on bringing back as much as we can and adding to that.”
Most events will have day-of registration. Some competitions will not be free and more information can be found on the Meet the Mountains website. Certain events, like mountain bike group rides, will require signing a waiver but it will be available at the festival.
A crowd favorite kayak demo pool provided by USA Raft will return for paddlers. There will be a rock-climbing wall, mountain bike skills course and much more at this summer’s event. Andrews said he spoke with the organizer of the disc golf tournament and confirmed there will be a second one this year.
“We are going to have a whole bunch of off-site events,” Andrews said, “and they are all throughout the region. Everything from fly-fishing to full moon hikes over at Roan Mountain, so no matter where you are at; even if you cannot make it out to both days of Meet the Mountains you can still get involved because there is stuff going on throughout the region.”
Andrews said that profits from last year’s event were re-invested to make this year’s bigger and better. This year the funds will are earmarked for an additional task. Kayla Carter, outdoor development manager for the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, said a major focus this year will be on how the funds that are raised are used.
“I would like it to be a central theme to talk about how the money we generate will go back into the community,” Carter said. “The way we are trying to structure our outdoor development program is; the money that gets raised from the festival will go back into projects that the teams in each of the counties identify.”
The teams Carter is referring to are called, “outdoor recreation task forces” by Andrews. Carter said their charge is to identify outdoor assets that need enhancement or improvement. Funds from this year’s festival will be appropriated to aid projects in need. This could be trial rehab, clean-up efforts or facilities at different locations.
There are many projects underway throughout the region. Winged Deer Park is expanding the trail system there. Johnson City approved initial inquiries into mountain bike trails at Buffalo Mountain Park and there are hiking trails that need maintenance. The festival promotes regionalism as well, and projects in Unicoi, Carter and other counties will be identified as well.
The name of the festival carries the overall mission. Organizers hope attendees will get outside and participate in activities they otherwise would not have the confidence to try on their own in order to facilitate a growth of self-efficacy.
“One of the things we have heard lately,” Carter said, “is that people aren’t really sure where to enter those sports. There is a kind of a barrier to entry, not only financially but also … they kind of mentally held back … they do not quite have the confidence to just go out there and try mountain biking or try kayaking. We want to give people a safe space to try those things out and build confidence in those outdoor adventure sports. We are hoping people walk away with a newfound sense of confidence.”
Last year’s event was an introduction for all. The event was a showcase of the region’s outdoor recreation offerings with Johnson City at the heart of the mecca.
Again attendees will have the ability to squeeze in caving, paddling and biking, all in one day to show how unique the region is. This year though attendees can have a satisfaction of knowing efforts are being made to ensure there are mountains to meet in the future.
Dates for the 2nd Annual Meet the Mountains festival are Aug. 23-24. Andrews says that although they did not add a day, hours will be expanded on the opening Friday. He also said there is focus on limiting the environmental impact of the festival.
For more information visit www.MTMFest.com or @meetthemountainsfest on Facebook.
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