Here’s the skinny: SlimFest is a community party

The Stilts family came out to support the cause and wish “Slim” a happy birthday at last year’s SlimFest. From left are Slim’s brother, Ken Stilts, Jr.; son, Andy; mom and dad, Jo and Ken; wife, Donna; and Slim.

The Stilts family came out to support the cause and wish “Slim” a happy birthday at last year’s SlimFest. From left are Slim’s brother, Ken Stilts, Jr.; son, Andy; mom and dad, Jo and Ken; wife, Donna; and Slim.

For newcomers to the party, there’s one point Steve “Slim” Stilts wants to make perfectly clear about the third annual SlimFest to be held from 7 p.m. to midnight on Aug. 2 at New Midland Plaza.

“It’s not a weight loss program,” the local businessman and community volunteer said.

Stilts said the free, one-night outdoor community concert is back this year, once again raising funds for “children and those who protect them,” which has become the event’s slogan.

Stilts, who owns a commercial insulation company, started the outdoor concert in 2006 in a Gill Street parking lot. The event grew out of a party he wanted to have for his 50th birthday, but then decided that a party should give something back to the community. Stilts chose the Fraternal Order of Police’s Shop With a Cop as the beneficiary of any money raised during the first Slimfest.

In 2007, the event moved to the amphitheater at New Midland Plaza in Alcoa. New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center was added as another charity that benefited from the party.

Each year a raffle for a car was done to raise money for the charities. This year Stilts said that instead of a car, raffle tickets are being sold for $100 each, with the winner of the reverse raffle winning $10,000 in cash -- with the taxes prepaid. Reverse raffle tickets are available at Blount Today, Hall Salvage and Waterfront Bar and Grill.

Kenjo, Radio station WIMZ-103.5 and Blount Today also are sponsoring a gasoline giveaway of 103.5 gallons of gasoline. People must sign up for the gasoline giveaway the day of the event and the gas will be given away that night.

Stilts said he’s optimistic this year’s event will be a success in spite of a sluggish economy. “I’m hoping it’s going to be larger than last year,” he said of the amount raised for the two charities. “With the economy like it is, that would be a great success. A total of $67,000 was raised last year, and $75,000 is this year’s goal.”

Stilts said he’s also looking forward to seeing more people at the event. Each year, crowds have grown. “The first year there was 600 people there and last year there were 1,500. We hopefully will have 2,500 this year,” he said.

Fueling the optimism for the event is the quality of the entertainment and food, said Stilts.

The entertainment kicks off with Avenue C at 7 p.m., followed by the Blues Brothers from Memory Theater in Pigeon Forge and capped off with Smooth Groove at 9 p.m. Smooth Groove has played since the beginning, and their crowd appeal grows every year, Stilts said.

Texas Roadhouse and Hooters are the food vendors for the event, and the Wine and Spirit Cellar on West Broadway Avenue is sponsoring the VIP tent. Beer will also be sold to participants of legal age, with proper identification.

Having Kenjo Market as a sponsor should help boost crowds from outside Blount County, Stilts said. “Kenjo Market is going to put posters up in stores so, hopefully, we’ll pick up people from outside Blount who like good music and a good community party,” he said.

Shop With a Cop, a program sponsored by the Bud Allison Memorial Lodge #9 Fraternal Order of Police, uses the money raised at Slimfest and from other fund-raisers during the year to help fund law enforcement officers taking underprivileged children shopping at Christmas time. “I liked this idea so I met with Jarrod Millsaps from the F.O.P., and SlimFest was created,” Stilts said.

Jim Pack from Hickory Construction won the car giveaway that first year and donated the vehicle back to the F.O.P. SlimFest ’06 raised more than $40,000, he said.

In 2007, New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center was added as a charity for the event. Moving the event also led to another sponsor. “By relocating, I met another person who has a heart for children and has helped SlimFest grow even bigger -- David Hall of Hall’s Salvage. David opened his Alcoa location three years ago, and he is very community-oriented,” Stilts said.

While the event is fun, it does require plenty of hard work on the part of Stilts and friends. “SlimFest would not be possible without over 100 of my friends and businesses that contribute to this event. It makes me very proud to be the organizer of such a successful event,” he said.

Stilts singled out Hall for his help in growing the event and also thanked Waterfront Bar and Grill owner Ronnie Kinkaid and Waterfront manager April Johnson for their efforts.

“It’s a lot of hard work and thanks to a lot of my friends, we’re able to raise this money for kids to go shopping at Christmas and help New Hope,” he said. “It’s truly a remarkable experience to see all of the kids Christmas shopping. I’ve never seen that many kids so bright-eyed that early in the morning.”

Stilts thanked several sponsors, including Hall’s Salvage, Blount Today, Ken Everett of Castone, Caldwell Fence, Phillips Jewelry, Blount Excavation, Tennessee Home Mortgage and Hickory Construction. “I want to thank the sponsors for standing behind these charities,” he said.

Stilts said there will be no reserved seating for the one-night concert. People can come early at 6 p.m. to place their lawn chairs before the concert begins.

“We are in our third year now,” said Stilts. “I would like everyone to come out and enjoy the evening with the confidence of knowing that the proceeds from the event are going to stay local and help the kids of Blount County. Bring your lawn chairs and get there early.”

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