Cranberry Festival to live on after Shady Valley Elementary closes, organizers say

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Festival organizers said proceeds will still benefit education in the Shady Valley community

JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Shady Valley Elementary will close its doors at the end of the school year, but the festival that has been wrapped around the historic school for 27 years will continue, organizers said.

Each entrance of Shady Valley is accompanied by a sign touting the festival, which began in 1992 as a way to provide funds for the historic school. Proceeds from the festival also fund scholarships for graduates of Shady Valley Elementary.

Festival organizer Diane Howard said the show will go on this year as planned, with the festival kicking off Friday at 5 p.m. While details are still cloudy for the future of the festival, she said there aren’t any plans to discontinue the annual event.

Related: School board votes to close Shady Valley Elementary

“The monies that we will be using, the Cranberry Festival monies, from now on will continue to be, as it was in the conception of the Cranberry Festival, to support education,” she said.

“The festival will continue to go on. Just because they have chosen to close the school doesn’t mean we don’t have educational needs and funds needed for that.”

Diane Howard, a teacher’s assistant at Shady Valley and an organizer of the Cranberry Festival, said organizers don’t plan to stop the festival after Shady Valley closes.

Plans for the future of the building, which was constructed in 1938 as a New Deal project, are unclear. Today, the school enrolls 21 students in grades Kindergarten through 5th grade in its four classrooms.

The Johnson County Board of Education made waves in the community in June when a 3-2 vote passed in favor of downsizing the school by eliminating the pre-Kindergarten and 6th-grade classes.

Read More: Johnson County downsized a school. Did they do it legally?

Three months later, another 3-2 vote closed the school after the 2019-2020 school year.

Howard said the community is still processing the loss of what many call “the heart of Shady Valley,” but she said she hopes to see education continue behind the wormy-Chestnut walls of the historic school.

Shady Valley has been in operation for more than 80 years. Construction of the school was a New Deal project completed in the mid 1930s.

The festival takes place on school grounds each year, and has become something of a family reunion for the Shady Valley community, Howard said.

“The people’s hearts are definitely heavy in the thought that the school is looking to be closed,” she said. “The festival has (become) just a traditional thing, so we would want to continue to do that.”

The Cranberry Festival begins with dinner at 5 p.m. on Friday in the schoolhouse, which will be followed by a live auction and a silent auction. Dinner is $5 per person, and about 100 items are available through each auction.

Saturday kicks off at 10 a.m. with a parade and continues throughout the day with entertainment and craft vendors. The festival is free to attend.

Items will be for sale at this year’s festival.

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