Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:May 31, 2007; Section:Front Page; Page Number:1A

Blue Plum ready for picking

Annual city festival just one day away

By DOUG JANZ Press Tempo Writer

    The normal activities of downtown Johnson City come to a halt Friday as the eighth annual Blue Plum Festival takes over. Music will fill the air, upwards of 65,000 people will fill the streets for the twoday event, vendors and artists will be set up along the sidewalk and kids will rule the intersection of South Roan and Main streets.

    The best thing of all — it’s free.

    The arts and music festival officially opens 11 a.m. Friday and goes until about 11 p.m., then cranks back up for the biggest day Saturday, again run-
ning from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The streets will be closed to traffic starting at 6 p.m. today.

    Blue Plum was established and is run by Friends of Olde Downtowne. It’s become a staple in the summer diet of festivals for people in the Southeast. The festival is known for its Americana music lineup, and some of the big names this year are Acoustic Syndicate, regrouping for a handful of shows after the lineup had disbanded in 2005; the Darrell Scott Band; fiddler extraordinaire Casey Driessen; and the Drew Emmitt Band, a headliner last year who was forced to perform indoors when torrential rains canceled much of the Friday activities.

    The weather, as always, is a major factor at Blue Plum. Forecasts from midweek Wednesday were calling for a weekend of temperatures in the low 80s with scattered showers (20 percent to 40 percent chance).

    There will be about 40 art vendors on site, providing festival attendees with an eclectic mix of art to choose from, including crafts, woodwork, pottery, jewelry, paintings, photography, sculptures and metalwork.

    Here are a few key points about this weekend’s festival:

• Streets close today at 6 p.m. and open to traffic Sunday at 8 a.m. This includes the main intersection of Buffalo Street and East Main Street, where the Blue Plum main stage is located.

    • A couple of late changes: There will be no BMX/skateboard demonstrations as originally scheduled, due to insurance-related issues, and one band has been added to the main stage schedule. Bombadil will play at 5 p.m., doing a half-hour set.

• Alcohol must be off the streets by 11 p.m., about the time main stage music ends. Last year people had until midnight, but to prevent any crowd problems, police are asking people to have their drinks inside the clubs an hour earlier this year. While the festival is free, anyone who wants to buy alcohol must buy a $3 wristband. Proceeds benefit the festival.

• Food vendors are located in the same area as last year, on Market Street next to the parking garage and courthouse. Jan Numan, a member of Friends of Olde Downtowne and coordinator of the festival’s food vendors, said despite last year’s one-day rainout, food vendors were enthusiastic about coming back and had their 2007 spots reserved before they left the festival last year.

• Blue Plum will compete, in a roundabout way, with the Asheville Music Jamboree, scheduled for Deerfields at Mills River outside Asheville, N.C. The musical lineups tread a little of the same ground, but the only common artists are Acoustic Syndicate and Bombadil. The AMJ, basically a new version of the now defunct Smilefest, is a camping festival over three days, so tickets run anywhere from $75 to $125.

    “This time of year, just about every weekend there’s something going on,” Blue Plum coordinator Christine Murdock said. “The schedules will always clash and there isn’t anything we can do about it. You just kind of go with who you are and what works, and hope for the best.”

• There’s music on the Roan Stage this year, booked by Jim Benelisha of Acoustic Coffeehouse, from 4:30-9 p.m.

    “We did that a couple years ago and people liked it,” Murdock said. “It’s a calmer, more intimate atmosphere down there, and some people don’t want to get into the big crowd and the intensity near the main stage.”

• People may not think of it while they’re wandering around, but it’s worth the time to step into The Charles, located on Main Street across from the Hands On! Regional Museum, and check out the entries in the Blue PlumAnimation Festival. The 10-minute films will be shown hourly from noon to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s the only animation festival in the region.