By Dan Cullinane
The Mountain City Sunflower Festival, an annual celebration of the Appalachian spirit through arts, crafts, food, and music, returns to Main Street on July 17, and it’s bigger than ever before.
“The county has always been 110% behind the Sunflower Festival,” said Renee Profitt, the co-organizer with Misste Phillipi of the annual street fair. “There is so much talent all over Appalachia, and I’m so grateful we can showcase it for all the people who have been patiently waiting to enjoy it.”
Much talent, for sure. Almost double the number of craft vendors and food booths, non-profits, and live performers means that this year’s festival will not end at the courthouse but will stretch from one end of Main Street to the other. “Our largest year, we had 100 vendors,” Profitt said of the expansion. “This year, we have more than 175 vendors, and we are sold out.”
Extensive outreach to the East Tennessee region paid off, and artisans from as far away as Knoxville will present pottery, jewelry, woodworking, metal crafting, soaps, candles, t-shirts, and other hand-crafted items to eager shoppers on Saturday. Pop-up boutiques, including Vintage and Vogue and Abingdon General Store, will set up shop along Main Street, while area service organizations including The Hometown Service Coalition, The Pregnancy Crisis Center, and the Partnership for Stronger Communities will be on hand to talk about their important work.
“You gotta come hungry,” Profitt said of this year’s record-breaking 19 food vendors.
Local favorite Monsoons will serve Mel’s legendary egg rolls and wontons for the first time, and food-truck Phenom, The Hungarian Sausage King, and the Appalachian Belle will have an enormous presence of their signature items. Of course, no area street fair would be complete without Rick Norris’s Kettle-Licious, where Profitt will be stopping first for a bag of kettle corn.
Musicians, beginning with the Johnson County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) and closing with The Yates Family Band from Abingdon, will be performing on the porch of the former Family Prescription Center. Local Favorite Classic Highway will rock the street, and Kingsport’s Twirling Twins will be performing acrobatic feats up and down Main, where the Deputy Allen Lipford Memorial Car, Truck, and Bike Show will stretch from one end to the other as well.
Kid’s can hit the Fun Zone, sponsored by Parkdale Mills, and sign up for the Mr. and Miss Sunflower Pageant held on the courthouse lawn. Profitt gives a lot of credit to the 18 local sponsors who make the festival possible.
“We need stuff for our community to do. For our kids to do. And we’re so blessed to have good people in this county willing to put on stuff like this.”
The Sunflower Festival begins at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 17, and runs until 4:00 p.m. See you there!