JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – The organizers of the 18th annual Blue Plum Festival said the first day of the festival was a “home run” and they’re grateful for the community support following a recent controversy.
The two-day event got underway late Friday afternoon at Founder’s Park with live music, vendors, amusement rides and more.
But this year was different, the event is free to the public.
A lot is riding on this year’s festival though after the event’s former director, Deanna Hays, got in trouble eventually admitting to taking thousands from the organization and several vendors are still waiting for their money. Hays pleaded guilty in January to charges of theft and forgery.
But organizers tell us Friday night was a hit and many of those vendors who are actually still waiting for money came back this year and they’re thrilled with the turnout.
“I really wanted to see how they would overcome this,” Johnson City resident, Gabrielle Billiot said.
Billiot said she was at the festival to have fun but she was also curious about how the festival would play out this year.
“I’m liking it, It’s a lot better, it does remind me a little bit of how it reminds me of how blue plum use to be with everything together,” Billiot said.
Blue Plum Organization President Tracy Johnson said they’re considering this a home run and his year they’ve received the most sponsorships ever, allowing the festival to be free. Johnson said sponsors thanked sponsors like Commercial Bank, JRH Brewing, Yeehaw Brewing, WildWing Cafe and Summers-Taylor, Inc.
“The revenue stream for the festival is through the beer sales, the drink sales, ticketed wrist bands,” Johnson said that money will help repay the nearly $45,000 still owed to last year’s contracted vendors.
Brenda Gibson of Smalltown Sisters is a Blue Plum first timer and she said the recent controversy didn’t bother her.
“We didn’t pay any attention to that. We want to come back next year we’ve loved it it’s already been very busy,” Gibson said.
The evening’s headlining musical performer, David Mayfield came down with his group from Ohio for the event. Although he’d never performed at Blue Plum he said he loves the region.
“There’s such a rich culture of folk music in East Tennessee and I always love coming down here,” Mayfield said.
Johnson thanked all of those in our community who’ve encouraged and stepped up to help with this year’s festival. She said they’re committed to paying all of the vendors back and many are already paid.
The Blue Plum Festival starts again Saturday morning at 8:30. You can expect a chalk art event at 9 a.m, the kids zone opens at 10 a.m. and there will be live music throughout the day. For more information visit blueplum.org.
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