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Cranberry Festival 2010

With beautiful weather and a larger than usual turnout, this year’s Cranberry Festival in Shady Valley was a tremendous success, giving people from all over the area a good time while supporting Shady Valley Elementary School in the process. For 19 years the festival has celebrated the past, present, and future, of this isolated corner of Johnson County, and has served as a sort of homecoming for the area’s rich heritage.
As always, this year’s festival kicked off on Friday night with a bean supper at 5 pm, featuring cornbread, beans, hotdogs, cole slaw, and cranberry cookies. The Shady Valley Cranberry Festival Committee sponsored the meal, and was also responsible for organizing the festival as a whole.
The dinner was followed by the annual school auction. Conducted by the teachers of Shady Valley Elementary, the auction featured artwork, crafts by local artists, and many items donated by area residents. An additional silent auction was conducted alongside the dinner.
The celebration continued on into Saturday beginning with a phenomenal parade at 10 am. Rolling down US Highway 421 before turning at the Shady Valley crossroads, the parade featured dozens of floats, classic cars, farm machinery, horses, fire trucks, and the Johnson County High School marching band. As the parade made its way to the school, spectators lined up along the highway to catch candy thrown by the various parade participants.
The floats were entered into a competition held at the festival grounds near the school with first place going to the Shady Valley Baptist Church WMU float, second to Long’s Family Farms, and an honorable mention to the Girl Scouts. First place claimed a $100 prize, while second received $50. The competition was sponsored by Security Federal Bank and also featured a recognition of the Cranberry princesses, made up of girls in the Shady Valley sixth grade. Winners were announced during the opening ceremony from the Patton Pavilion on the festival grounds. The ceremony was conducted by Shady Valley principal Richard Price and began with a prayer and the national anthem conducted by the Johnson County High School band.
Vendors were set up in booths across 49 designated spaces, selling everything from apple butter to jewelry, shirts, quilts, and birdhouses.
All proceeds from the festival went to help support the Shady Valley School, a cornerstone of the community since its building in 1936 by the new deal era Works Progress Authority (WPA). The school was built to consolidate four smaller schools, and its first classes were held in 1938. Today the building houses kindergarten through sixth grade students as a part of the Johnson County School System.
A recent addition to the festival was the creation of a Shady Valley School alumni book. A work in progress, the book features class rosters and pictures of former students from past years. Current copies of the project were for sale at the school. A quilting contest was also held in the school gym, where contestants from around the area displayed their handiwork. Visitors to the festival conducted the judging.
Other activities included inflatable rides, Star the clown, a train ride, and live music from the pavilion. The festival officially ended with a presentation conducted by the Johnson County High School Drama class at 6 pm. The class performed “Showcase Oklahoma” in the school gym, with an admission fee of $5 for adults and $3 children 12 and under. The name of the festival itself harkens back to the early history of the valley, which was known for its wild cranberry bogs. Although agricultural endeavors in the valley have drained many of the original cranberry bogs, a few preserved examples are still present under the care of the nature conservancy. The berries grew so well because of the rich soils of the valley, formed by the surrounding Iron, Holston, and Cross mountains, which are also attributed to its isolation.
The uniqueness of Shady Valley and its beautiful fall foliage only add to the charm and popularity of the Cranberry Festival, and the event also serves as a homecoming for those who have moved away over the years. Called “the best little festival in Tennessee”, it only takes one glance at the smiling faces of the hundreds of visitors to see why Cranberry Festival earns such a remarkable reputation.