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Celebrating the season of the sunflower

By Lacy Hilliard
On Saturday, July 21 beginning at 9 o’clock A.M., the sweet smell of kettle corn, the sounds of local musicians, and the visual pleasure of bright yellow sunflowers could be discerned through the hazy summer mist that canopied Mountain City’s Main Street. Hundreds of festival-goers ignored the lingering threat of precipitation (which never manifested) to take part in this eclectic festival that offers a bit of something for everyone.
If your idea of a successful festival includes handmade crafts, a diverse menu, and something fun for the kids then consider the Sunflower Festival a hit. The festival attracts a unique array of vendors that range from artisans to crafters to local entrepreneurs and everything in between. The Artistic Thistle (a collection of creative works by artist Linda Thistle) was a great place to begin for any discerning shopper. Thistle’s booth at the Sunflower Festival highlighted her extensive and colorful artistic career. Her mountain decor inspired pieces combined with her ability to reduce, reuse, recycle by turning one man’s trash into another’s unrecognizable treasure made her work an impressive addition to this year’s festival. Manic Jewelry made an appearance at the festival displaying their offbeat, youth inspired jewelry collection. ‘The Beetles Knees could be found showcasing their vintage-style handcrafted art and jewelry. Also utilizing today’s growing trend of turning something unwanted into something beautiful or ‘upcycling,’ old Scrabble tiles turned vintage pendants were one of the many products The Beetles Knees had to offer. If you visit their etsy.com store, you’ll find everything from kitchenware to magnets, all with a vintage chic styling in mind. Tia Thomas of Sweet T Photography was also in attendance representing her whimsical and artistic style while showcasing her portraiture and fine art photography. Adding a culturally diverse flair to the festival was Bomas of Kenya. Gazing upon the handmade soapstone sculptures and carefully crafted mahogany carvings was an unexpected and stunning variation at the Appalachian inspired event. Inspiring creativity was a common theme at the Sunflower Festival, like mother/daughter duo Kathy and Phyllis Vickers. The two achieved creative ingenuity by crafting retro albums into decorative bowls. These eccentric centerpieces could act as conversation starters in even the dullest of situations. Every featured craft vendor is local to either Johnson County or neighboring Virginia or North Carolina. The Sunflower Festival is a great way to promote Appalachian arts and give the artists themselves recognition for their creativity.
The Sunflower Festival had a lot to offer in the way of entertainment. Emceeing the event was Billy Gambill of Gambill Entertainment. The charismatic Gambill provided an upbeat soundtrack as each musical performer prepared to take the stage. Young Kevin McCloud was a standout amongst musicians as he carried out a faith driven performance with impressive accompaniment. As parents enjoyed all that the musicians had to offer, their children could be found riding the bright yellow trolley around Main Street, sliding down the giant inflatable slide, or bouncing in the inflatable castle.
To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.