TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — Throughout the last year, businesses large and small struggled to stay afloat. Tuesday’s Statehood Day event’s large turnout has given business owners in the Tri-Cities hope that large-scale events are back for good.
“Last night would be the equivalent of a three-day weekend, said Jeff Gurley who owns the Lollipop Shop in downtown Jonesborough. “If you have a festival event that would be like an extra month in three days. In our line of work these events are incredibly important for us.”
Upcoming events throughout the summer are expected to follow suit.
“We do anticipate Fun Fest to be a very very busy week,” said Stephen Lahair, who owns Chef’s Pizza in downtown Kingsport. “After what happened in Jonesborough yesterday, I think Kingsport’s really getting ready to have one of the biggest events in Northeast Tennessee this year so far and hopefully it goes off.”
Thousands of people are expected to attend Fun Fest in Kingsport.
“We’ll get some people coming down just to walk the streets and see what we have down here,” said Kenneth Draper co-owner of Hook and Ladder Distillery in Kingsport. “I’m glad to see it coming back. People need to get out and they need to see each other smile.”
Draper also says he expects to see people stopping in as they travel and out-of-town shoppers through the summer as well.
“You’ve got people traveling to and from and we’re kind of like in between and we draw a lot of those people to downtown Kingsport that normally wouldn’t stop,” Draper said.
With most events being outside, the events coordinator for the town of Jonesborough says the pent-up demand to get back to larger events is there.
“People are ready to get out. They’re ready to attend events and they’re comfortable with it, especially being outdoors, I think that we’re ready to see that this summer,” said Melinda Copp. “It brings bigger volumes of people so we’re excited that these events are able to happen again. We’re excited for Jonesborough days and the Storytelling Center has just announced they’re going to be doing the Storytelling Festival again so we are thrilled that the big events are definitely coming back.”
Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift agrees that events being outside might make people feel more comfortable.
“The risk of transmission outside is lower, it’s not zero, but it is lower. It really goes back to that almost two different realities, vaccinated and unvaccinated, and what we don’t want are the unvaccinated people to live in a false sense of security,” said Swift. “They’re still at risk and so they need to take precautions and consider the events they’re going to.”
Swift says the best way to ensure safety at big events, whether inside or out, is to get vaccinated.
“If you’re vaccinated and fully vaccinated, your risk is a lot lower so you can take that into consideration. If you’re not vaccinated or even if you’re one of those high-risk individuals that CDC kind of calls out you really need to look at the event and determine your risk, if you’re one of those high-risk individuals and then not vaccinated, CDC still says you need to wear a mask.”
Jonesborough is expected to have a lot of people in town this weekend again as 45 vendors are setting up for a makers’ market, plus Brews and Tunes will start back up as well as the weekly farmers market.
The full calendar, bringing more traction to businesses.
“It gives businesses like myself a vote of confidence that we survived and that there’s a ray of hope out there for the smaller businesses,” said Gurley.