Apple Festival opens to a possible record crowd

Sue Guinn Legg • Oct 5, 2019 at 12:46 AM

Unusually warm weather might have made Friday's opening day of the 42nd Unicoi County Apple Festival an attendance record-setter.

“It’s a little hot, but we’ve had a really good crowd,” said Amanda Delp, executive director of the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates the award winning festival.

“This morning when it was cool, we had one of the biggest Friday mornings we’ve ever had. When it got hot around 1 o’clock it thinned out, but now people are getting off work, and it’s picking up again.”

Reconfiguring the festival to leave downtown sidewalks open to pedestrians and concentrating the festival’s many food vendors behind the courthouse seemed to have been a winning change for the festival.

“Logistically, it was a good move,” Delp said. “We’ve had mixed reviews from our vendors, but our attendees really like it. We’re pleased with the new layout overall.”

The apple vendors at the center of the festivities seemed equally happy.

Bobby Morrow, owner of Smoky Mountain Honey House in Asheville, North Carolina, who has been at the festival for the past 16 years, said his Erwin Apple Butter had once again proven to be a great seller. “Everyone carries it off for souvenirs and gives it to their family,” he said.

Festival standards Mountainview Bakery and Auntie Ruth’s of Chuckey and Stanley Produce and Bakery of Johnson City were all doing swift business as festival goers gobbled up their apple confections and fall-flavored specialties.

Among the more than 100,000 people who are expected to turn out for the two-day festival, Friday’s crowd included CBS “Survivor” contender Rick Devens, a tribe mate and friend of Erwin’s own “Survivor” celebrity Gavin Whitson.

Much like Whitson, Devens, a local news broadcaster who played his way back from “Survivor”’s Edge of Extinction to the final four, cordially stopped to sign autographs and pose for pictures with “Survivor” fans who recognized him among the crowd.

On the main music stage on Tucker Street, Dimestore Cowboys opened the weekend’s lineup of live music with a set of classic country standards and originals in advance of the evening’s headliner, Under the Table.

Saturday’s main stage performers will begin with Smoky Mountain Sideshow at 4 p.m. and Southern Rebellion at 6.

Delp said, “We just want to tell everyone to come out tomorrow.”