Popular festival created to unify community kicks off 37th year

KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – One of the Tri-Cities’ largest summer festivals kicked off Friday.

Fun Fest celebrates its 37th year, but the festival started nearly four decades ago as a solution to a big problem in the community.

Whether it’s the music, the beads, or the food, ask around – every Fun Fest attendee has their own favorite.

“Bouncey houses and games and there’s just so many activities,” said some festival-goers.

But all can agree, it’s a festival that lives up to its name.

“We literally just got here and we’re already having a blast,” said Tyler Strouth.

The fun started 37 years ago, festival Director Lucy Fleming says, to help ease tensions and unify the community.

“High school rivalries were getting very intense on and off the field more importantly,  and also there had been some local referendums that really put neighbor against neighbor,” Fleming said.

With that, the solution – Fun Fest – was born.

“We wanted to make sure that we could have an event that would bring those people back together, work toward a common good and have something fun in the process,” Fleming said.

And keeping that in mind, Fleming says, the celebration wasn’t designed as a fundraiser.

“So the philosophy has been to work at basically a breakeven point of view,” Fleming said. “If we make money in a year then it goes back into the festival, some years we don’t make money.”

And as the 9-day long celebration continues, festival-goers say they’ve noticed Fun Fest’s original intention come to life.

“It just brings together from what it looks like everybody, friends, family just having a good time,” Strouth.

This year is a special one for Kingsport, as the city celebrates its 100th birthday.

Fleming said they asked each of the event organizers to try to incorporate the centennial into their event, whether that be in the display or playing music from 100 years ago.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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