Folks from near and far welcomed spring to Townsend in early May at the annual Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day.
“We were pleased with the attendance,” said Jeanie Hilten, special events coordinator with the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Even though the price of gas was high, people came anyway.”
Hilten said folks enjoyed the food sold by the concessions vendors, the good crafts and demonstrations from the artists. The event was held on Friday and Saturday, May 6 and 7, at the Townsend Visitors Center.
“We had fantastic talent to drawn from,” she said. “Tied in with the Spring Festival was a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission to fund the young bluegrass band that really entertained -- 6 Mile Express.”
Now in its third year, this year’s Young Pickers Talent Competition had 26 contestants, making it the largest yet. The competition is designed for acoustic bluegrass musicians in the areas of guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle, and is an open contest. Each young musician played two songs and was allowed one or two accompanists. The event was held in the amphitheater of Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and drew a large appreciative audience to applaud and encourage the young pickers. Judges were members of Timberwinds Band.
This year’s grand prize winner was Hunter Walker, 17, of Beckley, W.Va, who also won first place in the open competition playing the mountain dulcimer. Other first prize winners included Matthew Taylor, 14, of Maryville, playing the guitar and mandolin; Matthew Boling, 17, of Blaine, playing the banjo; and Carson Peters, 7, of Piney Flats, playing the fiddle.
“Music is such an important part of Appalachian culture, and it’s great to see young people keeping that tradition alive,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We had about 200 people in the crowd this year, and with such variety in the types of music and great talent, everyone really enjoyed the show.”
Young Pickers second place winners included Dylan Smith, 14, of Ball Ground, Ga.; John Haynes, 16, of Cumming, Ga.; Sarah Morgan, 16, of Sharps Chapel, Tenn.; Alex Tedford, 12, of Knoxville; and James Richardson, 16, of Bristol.
The Young Pickers Talent Competition was sponsored by Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamps, Pick ‘N Grin, Rocky Branch Community Club, Music Row, Murlin’s Music World, Digital Express Mastering, Pokey’s Engraving Shop, WDXV Radio, Autopro Tires and Service, Kincannon Family, and Richardson Memorial Arts Fund.