KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Fun Fest is part of our region’s summertime traditions. For 40 years, the City of Kingsport has hosted a week of activities for the entire family.

Its newest director has been a part of Fun Fest since she was young. For twenty years, it’s been in Emily Thompson’s heart.

“I started with Fun Fest when I was 15,” Thompson said. “I volunteered at the Fun Fest Store my first summer to get volunteer hours for high school.”

Chances are you probably saw Emily Thompson at Fun Fest. For years, she was “Festus.” It was a job that Thompson loved, and she did it for ten years. Ironic, seeing as Thompson was afraid of mascots growing up. By being Festus, Thompson knew she had found her calling: Being the director of Fun Fest.

“I was terrified of mascots as a kid,” Thompson said. “So, it was weird that I became one, and it truly set the path in my life. I said, ‘Hey, one day I’d like to be over Fun Fest.’ And so here we are.”

Thompson says she wants to show others the magic with which she was raised.

“We love events, and we love community spirit,” she said. “And to me, the time I’ve spent in it and around it, Fun Fest is that Kingsport spirit and is that community spirit.”

Thompson says part of the success of Fun Fest is that it provides something for everyone of any age.

“I love that my kids get to experience those kids’ events and get to experience the balloons, but for me, fireworks and balloons will always be my top,” Thompson said.

One of her favorite days is the day after Fun Fest ends when she gets to see how others celebrated by looking at posts of families who have enjoyed what hundreds of volunteers and businesses helped to bring to life.

“By seeing what everyone else saw from a million different spots at the same event, and that’s where you’re kind of like, ‘okay, this is bigger than us.’ So that’s what’s kept me coming back,” Thompson said. “I love that we get to be a lot of people’s family time or family reunions or anything like that. It’s just neat to be a small part of that.”

She has big plans for coming years, but no matter what, that Kingsport spirit will always be a part of Fun Fest.

“Really just trying to keep that core spirit that has been passed onto me from my predecessor, of so many years,” Thompson said. “Lucy (Fleming) and I were in it together for many, and as she enjoys retirement, I hope to keep that spirit going and really focusing on the heart of Fun Fest and evolve it.”

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