Mardi Gras bead toss kick off to Fun Fest 2013. Photo by David Grace
“Beads! Beads! Beads!”
Children chanted anxiously awaiting the Mardi Gras bead toss on Broad Street on Friday afternoon.
The bead toss is one of the many highlights of Mardi Gras including a number of contests, inflatables, a train, vendors and live entertainment.
“It’s a family event,” said Chaiba Bloomer, president of Kingsport’s Regions Bank, the primary sponsor. “Kids can come here and enjoy the activities at no cost, and we work hard to do that each year.”
In anticipation of the event, many local businesses decorated store fronts and lobbies in purple, green and gold for the Window Decorating Contest.
Small window winners were Jan-Mar in first place and Bloom Boutique in second.
The first place winner of the large window contest was Dress to Impress.
In the Professional Lobby category, Regions Bank came in first, and First Tennessee Bank won second.
In the afternoon, 13 children competed in the Children’s Mardi Gras Costume Contest, which resulted in sibling winners Kylar Nation, 9 and Gracie Nation, 5. This is a second win for Gracie, who was crowned Mrs. Mardi Gras two year ago.
This year, more than 9,000 Mardi Gras necklaces were distributed to the estimated 5,000 in attendance.
Live entertainment included the Dobyns-Bennett Spirit Shakers, Railroad Angels, Zappo the Clown, Emily Spencer and Javonte Lyons, and the East Tennessee Cheer and Gymnastics Cheerleaders.
Throughout the day, children could play Bead Station Bingo by visiting various sites, collecting beads and getting a bingo card stamped. Completed cards were entered to win a prize.
Christina Vaughn, Regions Bank team leader in Kingsport, said there were many new vendors this year.
A new game this year featured a giant inflatable dinosaur with holes in its hands. The object was to hit plastic golf balls and tennis balls into the hands of the monster “Golfzilla.” This game was sponsored by Tri-Cities Professional Golf Association to promote The First Tee of Tri-Cities, which teaches life values to youth through its golf program.
Another children’s outreach program at the event was Sullivan County Imagination Library, which delivers books each month to children age 5 and younger.
The bungee jump was at the festival for its second year and consistently had the longest line of children waiting to jump.
Mardi Gras has been a Fun Fest event since its beginning and continues to lure new and returning community members.
Sally Oaks brought her 5-year-old granddaughter Michelle Demuth for the fourth year. She said that the people at the event were respectful and courteous, and noted the presence of fire department officials on bicycles.
“I feel very comfortable and safe bringing my granddaughter here,” said Oaks. “I think it’s a wonderful event.”
Sponsors for the event are Regions Bank, Downtown Kingsport Association, WKPT-TV and many more.