They’ve got it covered: Parks and Rec to oversee beloved festival

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ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Elizabethton’s Parks and Recreation Department has stepped in to operate Covered Bridge Days, the city’s flagship festival. The festival will be held June 10-13 in and around Covered Bridge Park.

This year’s festival will keep a successful weekend template in place while expanding offerings with Wednesday and Thursday events, Parks and Rec Programming and Special Events Coordinator Kelly Kitchens said Wednesday.

“We’re working on a few elements that we want to be able to bring in this year just to expand upon the success that Covered Bridge Days already sees within the community,” Kitchens said.

The department will post updates and announcements as the festival draws nearer, but Kitchens said she and colleagues already are busily reaching out to vendors, musicians and others. She said the Chamber has helped tee that up for Parks and Rec. Additionally, the department already oversees other events at the park including a music series.

The Chamber announced last November it would no longer host Covered Bridge Days, the Christmas Parade and the Christmas tree lighting celebration.

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“We really began to see when it was announced that it was a possibility and people were very upset about it,” Kitchens said. “This is one of our treasured areas here in Elizabethton with the Covered Bridge and the Doe River behind it… and I think it would have definitely left a huge hole in Elizabethton to not go on.”

Several organizations were at the table after the Chamber announced the festival wasn’t aligned closely enough with its core mission. “It was just decided we were a great fit to oversee it and we’re extremely blessed that we have a lot of people willing to pitch in and help.”

It’s a good thing, Kitchens said, as time is growing short. She said they wanted to keep the dates the same. “We knew we had to move quickly. Thankfully, because of a lot of the events we already do throughout the year … we already knew a lot of the people that we would be calling upon, we had a lot of contacts with musicians and entertainment.”

In previous years, the festival had stretched a couple more days, and Parks and Rec plans to revisit that approach. “We’ve decided that we’ll kind of do this launch on Wednesday and Thursday, offer some music here at Covered Bridge Park, we’re looking at different recreation opportunities, to be able to kind of just kick off the big weekend that’s to come.”

Department Director Mike Mains said the festival has typically been a break-even event but that the city won’t have any idea about additional cost burden until after this year’s initial run.

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