KINGSPORT — The excitement of Fun Fest is back for its 32nd year as the celebration kicks off with a new store, new events and the always fantastic concerts.
The 2012 Fun Fest Committee held a press conference Wednesday at the new Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce office downtown. The facility also houses the new Fun Fest store, which opens Friday.
The theme for merchandise is “color, color, color,” noted Fun Fest Chair Lori Payne.
This year, there are four shirt designs, including a onesie for babies. The colors are tie-dye orange or purple.
Last year, more than 17 states and eight countries were represented at Fun Fest, and Vice Chair Lorrie Cooper says she anticipates even more diversity at this year’s events.
One of the ways the organization is attracting more people is the Contemporary Christian Concert, the first event of the Sunset Concert Series, sponsored by Phil Bachman Honda.
“We worked on this event and talked about this event for about four to five years,” said Concert Chair Shea Payne. “We prayed about it ... and we all knew that this was the time. We want it to be a community-involved event.”
The concert, set for Thursday, July 19, will be headlined by Jeremy Camp, with Building 429 opening the show.
Country music star Travis Tritt is the headliner for the Sunset Series’ second night, Friday, July 20.
“The concert kicks off with local favorite Folk Soul Revival,” Cooper said. “It’s made up of five guys from Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. They’re local boys.”
Tritt, who has won two Grammys and four CMA awards, is no stranger to the Tri-Cities, having performed at Fun Fest in 2005. He has also been a celebrity guest on the Santa Train.
The concert series’ finale is Saturday night, July 21, with rising star Drake White opening for famed Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Lynyrd Skynyrd No. 5 out of 100 of the greatest artists of all time. Their single, ‘Freebird,’ was named the No. 3 guitar solo,” said Sunset Concert Series Chair Lucy Fleming.
Fun Fest will also welcome several new events this year, including the Mini Maker Fair, a “do-it-yourself” style exhibition of hobbyists and social clubs.
Dinner at the Market, another new event, “will include all the local foods that have been brought and showcased at our local farmers market here in downtown,” Payne said.
Other highlights include an additional Kingsport Mets game and the addition of Kingsport Idol as a Fun Fest event.
“A Walk Through History With Our Veterans,” sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979, aims to help educate locals about war and sacrifice.
“We’re going to have some displays and military memorabilia,” said chapter member David Carter. “We have veterans from the Korean War Veterans Association, and some of us will speak a little bit about some of our experiences.
“We want to try to ensure that every person who served, every person who fought, every person who died and those who did not come home are not forgotten.”
Fun Fest runs July 13-21.
For more information or to purchase Fun Fest concert tickets or merchandise stop by the chamber of commerce office at 400 Clinchfield St., call 392-8829 or visit www.funfest.net.