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Covered Bridge Celebration set for June 14 and 15

John Thompson • Updated Jun 4, 2019 at 9:10 PM

ELIZABETHTON — It is nearly time for the biggest annual festival in Elizabethton.

The 53rd Annual Covered Bridge Celebration will take place on Friday, June 14, and Saturday, June 15, on the shores of Doe River on the eastern side of downtown Elizabethton.

As usual, the event will once again feature plenty of music on the Covered Bridge Stage. There will also be plenty of other events, festival food, arts and crafts vendors and children’s activities.

The heart of the Covered Bridge Celebration has always been the music. The music reached a new level with the 50th Covered Bridge three years ago when Daniel Grindstaff ended his music career and came home to Elizabethton to raise a family and sell insurance.

But Grindstaff kept his musical connections and used them to bring some big-name talent to the Covered Bridge, including Marty Raybon for the 50th Covered Bridge fest. He continues to have success in bringing in talent.

This year, the music begins on the Covered Bridge Stage at 5 p.m. on Friday with High Taste Grass. This is a group from Gate City, Va., that started in 2016. The bluegrass band consists of Eric McMurray on mandolin, fiddle and vocals; Mitch Bentley on bass and vocals; Garnet Lester on guitar and vocals; and Kris Rasnake on banjo.

The Mountain Rose Band takes over the stage at 6:30 p.m. The band is from Roan Mountain. It plays a different array of genres, mostly rock and folk done with a bluegrass touch as well as some traditional bluegrass and gospel. It’s a little something for everyone.

The band has been around since 2006. The members include: Rick Holtsclaw on guitar and lead vocals; Tammy Perry on banjo and vocals; Randy Grindstaff on bass and vocals; Jerome Webb on mandolin and vocals; and David Johnson on guitar and vocals.

Friday night headliner Jeff Woods takes the stage at 8.

Saturday night’s music gets started at 5 p.m. with Bill and the Belles. The group describes its style as a spirited sound that falls somewhere between old-time country and vaudeville from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

“We like old music and some of us are consumed by it,” says lead singer and guitarist Kris Truelsen with a knowing laugh. “But we don't have a desire to copy it. We want to sound like ourselves and tell our story.”

Johnny Counterfeit takes the stage at 6:30 p.m. with his fast-paced parodies and voice imitations of such performers as Johnny Cash, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Headliner John Berry will close the Covered Bridge Celebration. He takes the stage at 8 p.m.

Berry had his breakout decade in the 1990s, when he placed 20 singles on the country charts, six of which went top five, with “Your Love Amazes Me” going to No. 1. He also received a Grammy for his participation in “Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel, Vol 1.”

As usual, there are events to enjoy. Some of this year’s events should help tie the downtown retail district with the festival. In the past, the two have pretty much been separate from each other. The upcoming festival weekend will also be a weekend for celebration in the rest of downtown Elizabethton.

One event that should draw the two together is the second Evening on Elk on Friday from 5 to 9. The Evenings on Elk are planned for the second Fridays of each month as a way to promote downtown retail business.

The first Evening on Elk was held on the second Friday evening in May and was a big success, with lots of people attending and having fun. All the stores will again be open late June 14.

Many will have bands and other entertainment on the premises and most will have special sales. The new Riverside Taphouse will be celebrating its grand opening.

There will also be more events Saturday that tie downtown with the festival, including the weekly Cruise-In, featuring the classic cars of the Carter County Car Club, which takes place from 5-9 p.m. on Elk Avenue in the downtown section.

There will also be the annual Community Yard Sale on the downtown section of East E Street from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

The Covered Bridge 5K Run and 3K Walk will start at 8 a.m. from the parking lot of City Hall and run through the Covered Bridge. All proceeds benefit the Sycamore Shoals Hospital Foundation.

The Little Hillbilly Contest will take place at the park at 11 a.m. Saturday.

There will once again be a large number of arts and crafts and marketplace vendors to supply a large variety of unusual items for sale.

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