By: Paula Walter
Fall in the northeast Tennessee mountains brings crisp mornings, warm afternoons and a spectacular array of colors across the mountainside. If you live in Johnson County, the arrival of the Cranberry Festival in Shady Valley is a favorite event of the season as residents and visitors, young and old, partake in a fundraiser whose main purpose is to support the local elementary school. This year marks the 23rd Cranberry Festival.
Typically there are approximately 50 students per year at Shady Valley Elementary School. All monies raised from the Cranberry Festival go directly for the benefit of the children. The school is the heartbeat of Shady Valley, said Diane Howard, who currently works at the school and is one of the original organizers for the event. Its the center of our community. The two-day festival has had up to 12,000 visitors in attendance in previous years. There is no admission fee.
This years Cranberry Festival kicks off with its hallmark soup bean dinner starting on Friday, October 9th from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm held at the school. The meal includes cornbread, slaw, home made desserts, soft drinks or water. A hot dog dinner will also be available.
There is a silent auction that begins after supper with most items under $25 that will remain open for bidding until 8:00 pm. The evening kicks up when auctioneer Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey works the crowd with a live auction, typically held from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. We are so appreciative, Howard said. The school has received up to 200 items in the past and the auction continues until everything is sold. The community is generous with donated gift certificates to bed and breakfasts, bike rentals and shuttles, and tickets to Dollywood and Tweetsie Railroad, among many more. Its our money maker, said Howard, as the auction often brings in between $8,000 to $10,000. Local residents often contribute baskets of homegrown produce, jellies and jams to be included in the auctions, and the many contributions of churches and businesses are important to the success of the festival. When it comes to school events, everyone pulls together, Howard said.
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