Downtown Johnson City is gearing up for 80,000 visitors to pack the city's center over the next three days during the 14th annual Blue Plum Festival.
For business owners, this is their chance to introduce themselves to new customers. “It amazes me how many people come in and say 'I didn’t know you were here,'” says Dick Nelson, owner of Nelson Fine Arts. "And I’ve been here for 12 years!"
Every employee at Nelson Fine Arts will be working this weekend and the business will stay open at least three hours longer at night.
The Brum Plum Cafe inside Nelson Fine Arts is open year-round. Nelson says they will do two months worth of business this weekend alone.
Festival organizers say the music, arts, and crafts event is designed to be fun, but the hope is the crowds will come back on their own throughout the year. “With bringing every demographic from child to senior, that is what true revitalization is and the goal of the festival is to get people downtown,” says festival director Brandi Woodall.
Festival goers will also find more entertainment with more bands taking the stage than ever before.
There's also a push to draw the crowd throughout the entire seven-block festival area, which business owners says is their opportunity. “It draws 80,000 people to downtown walking past our stores. It’s up to us to get them in the door,” says Nelson.
The festival is expanding this year to include a full line-up of events on Sunday.
In previous years the Sunday events have been limited, but this year the day is being dedicated to families. “We are going to keep the jazz stage up, have a full day of storytelling, kids arts and crafts, of course we will still have the craft vendors,” says Woodall.
Organizers will begin major set up Thursday evening.
Several downtown streets will be closed starting at 7 p.m. Thursday night and will remain closed until Sunday.
For a complete list of closings and events during the festival you can follow the link to the Blue Plum Festival.