20 years and many thunderstorms later the Blue Plum Festival is still bringing people together

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Jun 7, 2019 at 9:39 PM

It’s been two decades since the Blue Plum Festival debuted in Johnson City, and while the festival has had plenty of changes over the past 20 years, it’s still serving its original purpose — to highlight downtown Johnson City and bring the community together.

A period of heavy rains as the festival got underway around 4 p.m. Friday did little to curb excitement or dampen spirits, as hundreds still came out, with several pointing to Blue Plum’s community feel as a big reason why.

Johnson City resident Chris Hickie said he enjoys “getting out in the community, meeting up with friends, seeing new music and just experiencing downtown Johnson City.” His favorite part of Blue Plum is “the community aspect of it,” he continued.

“Just being able to walk around and see people I haven’t seen in months or so, it’s a pretty good chance they’re all going to be here,” Ian Watson said of his favorite aspect of the festival.

Of course, live music from nine bands and artists doesn’t hurt either, especially when local artists are performing.

“It’s great,” Hickie said of local musicians playing at Blue Plum. “This is a really thriving music scene here in Johnson City and they really do great job of focusing on that and bringing in musicians from this area to give exposure to.”

“It’s awesome, especially when you’re able to get this personal up front,” said Stephen White, who was one of many hanging around Founders Park as the Johnson City-based band “Jesse Davis and the Country Club” got ready to perform their 5:45 p.m. set.

The band’s frontman, Jesse Davis, said the opportunity to play at Blue Plum is “great,” saying the people and the environment contribute to a great atmosphere to play in.

“It’s great, you get to come out and play for the people of Johnson City and we love it,” he said. “The people, the great soundman, great stage — the whole thing is just a great thing to do.”

Festival director Caroline Abercrombie said she was “so happy” about the turnout, because the forecast had her “worried” at first.

Looking around at the dozens of people gathered at the Wild Wing Cafe Stage, Abercrombie also expressed gratitude that the community still came out and thanked the nearly 200 volunteers who had to quickly adapt to a changing festival layout after several things were moved from the lawn in Founders Park.

“It makes me so happy (to see people braving the rain),” she said. “I was really worried, with this horrible forecast, that people may not risk it.”

“We always have a plan ‘B’, but then when you go to actually do plan ‘B’ it gets very complicated,” Abercrombie said. “For two years in a row now we’ve been scrambling, but we have an awesome team and I can’t say how proud I am of them.”

Today’s closing day of the festival will feature more than a dozen bands starting at 10 a.m., and closing with headliner Devon Gilfillian at 9 p.m. Saturday’s forecast calls for light rain showers off-and-on all day. Abercrombie says they’re anticipating the weather to be a bit drier, but even if it does rain, there’s “a lot of coverage down here — a lot of places for people to get out of the weather,” she said.

“They know these showers are usually just kind of pop-ups and you can just jump in and jump out,” she said. “Thank you, Johnson City, for sticking with us.”

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