37th Annual Covered Bridge Celebration will open Wednesday

The 37th Annual Covered Bridge Celebration will begin Wednesday, June 4, with a night of gospel music on the Elk Avenue Bridge.
   The five-day festival, which is named for the historic Covered Bridge over Doe River, originally was known as Country Music Days in Elizabethton which was a weeklong celebration of music each night on the bridge. The festival, although cut to five days, was expanded to include a juried arts and crafts show, Kids Island, a 5-K Run and 3-K Walk, the Roan Groan (bicycle event), a downtown cruise-in, and a softball tournament.
   Co-chairs for this year's event are Keith Young and Tom Tull.
   The festival will include a salute to the 776th Maintenance Company, which will be held Saturday, June 7, from 9 to 9:30 a.m. at the Carter County Veterans War Memorial on Elk Avenue.
   Young said, "The efforts of the 776th and other facets of the military make it possible for us to have this celebration and to be able to have something like this in safety and security."
   Nightly music on the bridge will begin at 6 o'clock and continue until around 10 o'clock.
   Saturday morning will also feature Breakfast in Betsy from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. Participating restaurants include the Maze Emporium, The Coffee Company, Duck Duck Goose Cafe, Southern Restaurant, City Market and Rustler's.
   Also on Saturday, a Firefighters Skills Rodeo, sponsored by Carter County Motors, will be held in the parking at Cat Island Park from 1 until 4 p.m. According to Young, several of the local volunteer fire departments will have four-man teams competing in a skills rodeo, with various aspects of the skills that are required to become an effective firefighter. The firefighters will compete in a special soccer game involving a special soccer ball six feet in diameter propelled by teams with a full blast of a fire hose.
   The Covered Bridge Arts and Crafts Festival will be held Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. More than 50 vendors will be available.
   Kids Island, sponsored by Sycamore Shoals Hospital, will feature various activities on Thursday and Friday from 1 to 5:30 p.m.; beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
   Also, Sunday activities will feature a cruise-in on Elk Avenue from 1 until 5 p.m. About 110 to 120 cars are expected to be entered in the cruise-in. A downtown sidewalk sale, sponsored by the Downtown Merchants Association, will be held during the same hours.
   Other events will include:
   * 5K Road Race (6:30 a.m. on Saturday) and 3K Walk (7:45 a.m. on Saturday), sponsored by Sprint and Sycamore Shoals Hospital. Registration for the 5K Run and 3K Walk will be held at 6:30 a.m. at the corner of Pine Street and Elk Avenue, across from Picket Fence Antiques. Registration the day of the race/walk will be $10. The 3K Fitness Walk will begin at 7:45 a.m., with registration at 6:30 a.m.
   * Storytelling at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library on Thursday at 7 p.m. featuring Charles and Denee Mattioli, Larry and Gayleen Kelly and Mell Edwards.
   * The Third Annual Watauga Kayak Tours Wallygaggle River Run, sponsored by the Watauga Kayak Tours and River Ridge Campground on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.
   * Little Mr. and Miss Hillbilly Contest, to be held at Peebles Department Store on Saturday at 10 a.m.
   * Neighborhood Softball Tournament Saturday, sponsored by Life Care Center of Elizabethton.
   * Roan Groan Bicycle Race on Sunday, June 8, beginning at 7:30 a.m., sponsored by Tri-Cities Road Club, Nor-Well Co., and Hampton Trails Bicycle Shop.
   * Walk Across Tennessee Celebration will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, at 11 a.m. on Kids Island. Teams will be recognized and awards will be presented.
   * Softball Tournament Sunday at the ballfield behind the Carter County Jail sponsored by Life Care Center of Elizabethton.
   Also on Saturday, there will be a fireworks display at 10 p.m.