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Blue Plum set to kick off Johnson City's festival season this week

Jonathan Roberts • Jun 1, 2019 at 7:03 PM

Johnson City’s festival season is here, and it starts with the annual Blue Plum festival this weekend.

From June through September, downtown Johnson City’s streets and parks come to life with music, dance, crafts, arts, food, games and outdoor activities. Thousands pour into the city to hear regional and local musicians, soak up the culture and connect with friends.

The festivals are as diverse as they come, with each celebrating aspects of life in Northeast Tennessee.

Blue Plum, June 7-8

Friday and Saturday will bring this year’s Blue Plum Festival, featuring a bevy of new activities and attractions, including an all-ages field day experience and a lawn stage for family-friendly entertainment. Founders Park will hum with local talent both days, and this year’s festival is headlined by R&B/Gospel/Blues singer Devon Gilfillian and jazz-funk band the New Orleans Suspects.

Activities will include a 5K run, a kids zone, a silent disco and a gaming competition. There’s also going to be an added focus on sustainability for the second-straight year, where people can turn in bags of litter and other garbage for some free swag. Also returning for a second year are American Sign Language interpreters.

See Monday’s Johnson City Press for more about Blue Plum 2019. On the web: www.blueplum.org.

Little Chicago, Aug. 9-10

Following Blue Plum is the young, but popular, Little Chicago Festival, which will take place Aug. 9-10. The event, founded by the Downtown Merchants Association, was started in 2016 after Blue Plum moved to Founders Park.

Showcasing downtown in a big way, the festival has grown since its inception, bringing large crowds to enjoy musical acts, arts and more. A lineup of musicians will be announced later this summer, and the Merchants Association already is taking applications for performers and vendors.

On the web: www.littlechicagofestival.com.

Meet the Mountains, Aug. 23-24

Laying claim to the third weekend in August, Meet the Mountains is the city’s newest festival as it goes it into its second year. As with the other festivals, Meet the Mountains is free, but instead of a focus on music, food and arts, it celebrates Northeast Tennessee’s outdoor recreation. It encourages attendees to learn more about the natural assets in the region and for residents to live healthy lifestyles.

As part of the new regional economic development effort to show off Northeast Tennessee’s vast recreational potential, Meet the Mountains started with a bang in 2018. Founders Park was filled with families participating in rock climbing, paddling, a ropes course, cycling, disc golf and more.

Along with the activities and vendors downtown, the festival took participants to off-site adventures in and around Johnson City in such places as Tannery Knobs Bike Park and Roan Mountain. Meet the Mountains also offers clinics for outdoor enthusiasts with such topics as “Brain Health and the Benefits of the Outdoors,” “Bikepacking 101” and “Map and Compass Basics.”

On the web: www.mtmfest.com.

Umoja Festival, Sept. 13-14

Johnson City’s longest-running festival will be back for its 22nd straight year. “Umoja” is Swahili for “unity,” and the festival does just that — unifying thousands from differing cultures and backgrounds over music, food and other vendors and entertainers. Organizers are on a mission to celebrate diversity and eliminate the barriers of race and culture.

A lineup will be announced later this summer. Organizers are seeking sponsors and taking applications for vendors.

On the web: umojajc.org.

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