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Fun Fest tradition is 'an everyman's parade'

Wes Bunch • Jul 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT— Thousands of festival goers from across the region lined the streets of downtown Kingsport Friday evening to watch this year’s Wellmont Fun Fest Parade and help get the 29th edition of the weeklong festival under way.

“Fun Fest is getting almost up to 30 years, which for festivals is quite a milestone,” said Wellmont’s Shane Duncan, who also served as the parade’s main organizer. “Wellmont Health System is extremely proud to sponsor this event that happens on the kickoff day of the festival.”

More than 200 floats ranging from the simple to the elaborate entered the parade, which snaked along a 1.5-mile route beginning at the corner of Center and Main streets.

Like every year, the 2009 edition of the Fun Fest Parade had something for all who attended, Duncan said.

“It’s a parade for everyone, really,” Duncan said. “You don’t have to be invited to participate, and it’s really about just bringing the community together. Community unity is one of the Fun Fest core principles, and that’s what this parade was designed for — to be an every man’s parade.”

Although the parade began at 6:30 p.m., entrants began showing up at 8 a.m. to get their spot in the line. Many of those participating put up tents and tailgated during the wait, creating a party-like feeling before the parade even started, Duncan said.

Despite the large number of people taking part in the parade, Duncan said it went off without any major problems thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers.

“The event wouldn’t take place if it were not for a core group of volunteers I’ve relied on for many, many years,” Duncan said. “Those are employees of Wellmont Health System, Holston Valley Medical Center and their families that help put this event on every year.”

Duncan also praised the city of Kingsport and the Kingsport Police Department for their help in pulling off a successful parade.

For many in attendance, including Kingsport’s Sentel Brice, his wife Ashlee, and their two young daughters — Zari, 3, and Mela, 1, who made their second and first visits, respectively — the parade was a chance to get outside and have fun on a beautiful summer evening.

“We come every year, and we always like to get out and see what’s going on and enjoy the atmosphere,” Sentel Brice said. “It’s a good way to get the kids out of the house after they’ve been inside all day and let them get some sunshine, stretch their legs a little bit, and enjoy the entertainment — you know just let everybody have fun. It’s Fun Fest.”

The fun wasn’t just limited to spectators watching from the sidewalk.

Orris Harker, Party Division manager for Action Rental and Sales in Kingsport, said he and his family decided to participate in the parade at the last minute.

Even though he has worked with Fun Fest for the past five years setting up tents, Harker said this year was the first he took part in the parade.

“I thought it was a lot more fun being in the parade than it was watching it from the streets,” Harker said. “The next time we’ll have a lot more time to organize, and we’re already coming up with float ideas for next year.”

Lisa Lawson, who owns SunSational Pool and Spa out of Rogersville with her husband Darrell, said she and her employees had a blast participating in the parade for the first time.

The Lawsons’ float was one of the more elaborate of the evening, featuring an 8-foot round pool and a white picket fence, complete with the Dobyns-Bennett Spirit Shakers in hula hoops.

Lawson said she enjoyed the parade so much that she would return next year.

“We’re coming back next year. We had a ball,” Lawson said. It was our first time being in a parade, but we were all born and grew up here ... so we wanted to let everyone know that we’re in business and we’re here to help.”

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