ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL)- As News Channel 11 celebrates 70 years of broadcasting to the Tri-Cities region, we also celebrate what makes the area unique.

The Unicoi County Apple Festival fits that description, spanning more than 40 years and bringing 110,000 people to downtown Erwin each year.

“It is more than just a festival. It is a celebration of Unicoi County, Northeast Tennessee, and of the Southeast Region,” said Amanda Delp, the Executive Director of the Unicoi Co. Chamber of Commerce.

Fried pies, craft vendors, organizations and of course a lot of apples fill Main Avenue the first weekend of each October.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to show off our community, and allow our vendors to come out and sell their wares. It’s a great fundraising opportunity for a lot of community organizations and it’s also a homecoming for the people in Unicoi County,” Delp said.

It all started back in 1978 with Old Joe Clark, a fiddle player with roots in Erwin who went on to play at the Grand Ole Opry and live in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

Old Joe Clark (Manuel Clark) at Old Joe Clark Day in 1978. (Photo courtesy of Mark Stevens)

“First year it was a one-day event- Old Joe Clark Day… had about eight vendors set up around the courthouse square, small stage,” explained Delp.

Old Joe Clark wasn’t able to come for the second year but, the festival grew to 20 vendors.

“Third year came around and they called it ‘Apple Days,’ two-day event… continued to grow. Then in year four, it became ‘Apple Festival,'” Delp said.

The festival continues to grow with more people, entertainment, food and craft vendors each year.

“I sold out completely the first day,” said Sandy Lingerfelt, the former Apple Festival Board Chair who now sells her own crafts. “You better make sure you have plenty of stock because the sales are going to be really good.”

Vendors come from all over the nation, oftentimes several years in a row.

“There’s a great variety of vendors,” Linegerfelt said. “They have some booths that are set up for kids of course and sell little toys and things for them but there’s also a lot of handmade items such as wreaths and flower arrangements, a lot of handmade jewelry.”

The festival also serves as a fundraising opportunity for organizations and brings a boost to the county’s economy.

“The festival provides an opportunity for so many within our community- fundraising opportunities- school groups, church groups, civic organizations and many organizations participate in the festival whether it’s with a booth, selling food for the athletics department- parking is a huge fundraiser for Unicoi County Schools each year,” said Delp. “Dollars come into the community by way of sales tax, lodging tax, accommodation tax, each year we see a huge spike in sales tax for the month of October as a result of the festival.”

The 46th annual Unicoi County Apple Festival in downtown Erwin is set for October 6th and 7th.
It runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.