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Festival to focus on new events, keep plenty of staples

Jonesborough Days will be looking — and sounding — quite a bit different this year, thanks in great part to performances by country music legend Ricky Skaggs and gospel group The Whites.
But the big name concert venue isn’t all that’s going to be new at the festival. In fact, the event’s name itself has even been changed.
The Jonesborough Days & Nights Festival, as it is now being called, will run Friday, June 29, through Sunday, July 1. The festival, known by its former title for more than 40 years, received a name change to better emphasize the night activities going on at the event, according to Event Chairman Melinda Copp.
The Skaggs concert is one of those. Skaggs will perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, and will be followed by the annual fireworks display.
“We are still working on performances for Friday night,” Copp said. “We’re thinking of doing a battle of the bands or something a little more local.”
Also new this year will be a classic car display called Speed Street. The fundraising display will feature the car collection of George Shinn, who lives in the area part-time and owns Daily Bread restaurant on Jackson Boulevard.
Shinn, through is TruLight Foundation, is responsible for bringing Skaggs to this year’s festival.
Proceeds from the car display will, according to Copp, be donated to Second Harvest Food Bank.
The festival’s kickoff dinner will have a new location this year, moving from a tented area behind the downtown courthouse to the International Storytelling Center.
The move, Copp said, is to accommodate the planned setup for the Skaggs concert behind the courthouse.
Leaders expect somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 people to buy tickets for the Skaggs concert. General admission tickets have been set at $25. VIP seating, which will include a chair near the stage and access to a tent of refreshments are being sold for $50. Tickets can be purchased locally at the Jonesborough Visitors Center or Daily Bread. They can also be purchased by visiting www.trulightfoundation.com.
A portion of the money raised through ticket sales will go back to TruLight Foundation, which will then redistribute the funds to charitable organizations, including some local entities, Shinn said.
Meanwhile a “gift offering” will be collected during the free concert by The Whites, who wrap up the festival at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Donations of food and money will be given to a local organization, most likely the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“We are absolutely tickled to death to have TruLight Foundation providing the entertainment for Jonesborough Days this year,” said Kelly Wolfe, town mayor. “We believe the music you all perform is our kind of music. It’s the type of music the people of Washington County like.”
During a press conference last week, Skaggs said he has never before performed in Tennessee’s oldest town.
“I’m really, really excited about coming to Jonesborough. I’ve always wanted to come up here,” Skaggs said. “I feel a kinship up here in these mountains. My ancestors came through here many, many years ago.”
Skaggs will be bringing more than his music to the festival, too. The avid photographer said he hopes to come to the area some time before the festival to take photographs of the historic town as well as possibly shooting in Rogersville.
Those photos, as well as others already in his vast collection, will be turned into an exhibit that will be on display throughout the duration of the Jonesborough Days & Nights Festival, Skaggs said.
Skaggs joked that he wouldn’t be back if the festival’s success “goes south,” but on a serious note, he said he would like to see the event become “an annual thing and just continue to grow.”
“The storytelling thing – that’s world famous. Jonesborough is known all over the world now because of storytelling,” Skaggs explained. “We’re hoping we can make a festival that will become that.”
While all of the new activities are sure to help the Jonesborough Days & Nights see success, plenty of the old staples will remain intact.
Craft and food vendors will still be selling their goods throughout the downtown area, with the town looking to get even more of them to participate this year.
“We want to have 65 to 70 crafters this year,” Copp said. “That’s about 20 to 25 more than last year.”
The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre will continue its longstanding tradition of performing the USO Show throughout the festival weekend, too. And Doc’s Front Porch, an area named for the late Doc McConnell, who had a huge impact on storytelling and the town, will return for a fourth year. The area hosts local musicians and storytellers.
Villages featuring a variety of worldly cultures will also return to the festival, Copp said.
The third annual dog jog will take place on the Friday of the festival while the parade will take to the street at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a long weekend of fun and entertainment,” Shinn said. “It’s going to be a fun, fun weekend.”