‘The community is ready’: Popular summer festivals slated to return this year


TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – Several beloved summer traditions cancelled in 2020 will welcome crowds back in 2021.

Due to COVID-19 uncertainty and planning restraints, some popular celebrations, like the Independence Day Fireworks in Johnson City, will not take place this year.

But organizers from around the Tri-Cities region confirm many other favorite summer festivities will return.

The Iris Festival will bloom for its 26th year in Greeneville on May 15th and 16th. Nearly all attractions will be outdoors, including food, crafts, music, and dance performances.

“We’ve spaced out our vendors appropriately so they’re not as close together as they would be in the past. We’re also not requiring masks, but we’re encouraging them. You know it’s an outdoors event, so we feel pretty safe,” said Trevor Rice, public relations manager for the Greene County Partnership.

The Iris Festival draws thousands of visitors to downtown and its cancellation last year due to COVID-19 was felt by the local economy.

“A lot of the crafts vendors, they rely on festivals like this. So we were really happy to be able to put it on for them,” said Rice.

Multiple events are planned in Unicoi County this year. The Town of Unicoi’s Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival is coming to Unicoi Elementary School on May 15th. It will feature live music, over 100 vendors, and a vintage car show.

Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp confirmed the 10th Annual Achin’ for the Bacon 5k River Run will be held June 26th.

Delp said the Unicoi County Apple Festival is also scheduled for October 1st and 2nd this year.

“Events are the lifeblood of the community. It brings the community together,” she said.

Delp said the country’s progress with vaccination and declining COVID cases gives organizers hope and optimism for safe outdoor events.

“We’ve had tremendous response from our vendors, tremendous response from the community. I think the community is ready. We’ve been in for so long and not had the opportunity to go out and meet with folks and friends and go to events. So I think the community is certainly ready for that. We are looking at a fantastic Apple Festival this year,” said Delp.

Event organizers in Jonesborough confirmed to News Channel 11 that Jonesborough Days will return July 3rd and 4th. Fireworks are scheduled for July 4th at 10 p.m. 

Downtown Johnson City will also welcome back summer events that were missed last year.

“We’ve got our Fridays After 5 concert series that’s going to begin soon. We’ve got Meet the Mountains that’s being planned for August,” said Keisha Shoun, communications and marketing director for Johnson City.

Shoun also said the Umoja Festival will return to downtown this year, it might just look a bit different from previous festivals.

The Downtown Johnson City website says the Little Chicago festival will take place in August.

Kingsport’s Fun Fest is scheduled for July 16-24.

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