By Dave Ongie, News Editor
When plans were announced for the inaugural Meet the Mountains Festival, one question kept popping up on the event’s official Facebook page: Will there be a Kids Zone?
While the organizers did not consciously design an area specifically for children with the inflatables and face painting that are so prevalent at other festivals held around the area, they offered a heaping-helping of the original Kids Zone – the great outdoors.Families flocked to the two-day festival last Friday and Saturday, and the kids couldn’t get enough of the biking area, the ropes course and the demo pool stocked with kayaks and paddleboards. Jenna Moore, director of sales for the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau and a member of the committee that planned Meet the Mountains, said the number of kids who latched onto healthy outdoor activities last weekend was a pleasant surprise.
“Initially, I don’t know if we thought that many kids would be doing it, but it’s great, because if they start doing the activities when they’re young, they will continue to do it, and then their kids will be involved in outdoor activities,” Moore said.
Kids weren’t the only ones giving the festival two thumbs up. On Monday, Moore said all of the feedback pouring in was positive as folks of all ages came away from Founders Park with positive feelings about the event. The consensus was that a festival focused on physical activity and outdoor fun was just what the doctor ordered.
A sneak preview of the Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park drew hundreds of cyclists to the festival this weekend, where they had the opportunity to kick the tires on the new trail system located a stone’s throw from Founders Park.
Another huge draw was the Air Dog competition, where some high-flying canines jumped over 20 feet in a quest to be crowned top dog. Moore said folks who were drawn to Founders Park by the Top Dog competition stuck around to sample the food and drink, peruse the merchandise and enjoy the many fun activities.
“That was a big draw to get people down there, but once they saw the Air Dogs, they stayed to look at everything else,” Moore said.
Moving forward, Moore said there is a feeling of momentum among the planning committee as they begin to look ahead to next year’s event. Folks in the community have now had the opportunity to meet the mountains, and Moore said the experience made a good first impression, especially on potential sponsors.
“Selling this festival was challenging from a sponsor standpoint and even a vendor standpoint because we had nothing to show,” Moore said. “We had never done it before. It was hard to get people to visualize what this festival would be. Now that it’s happened, the vendors that were there were ecstatic.”