Vestival enters 20th year

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Hundreds of people flocked to the Candoro Arts and Heritage Center in South Knoxville for food, crafts and companionship as the popular celebration known as Vestival returned for its 20th year on Saturday.

“I try to do this every year,” said Beverly Wright of Powell, who explained that she lived in Vestal as a young child and still liked to occasionally visit the community. “I still see people I knew when I was little, and I used to love riding my bike down the hill (on Candora Avenue).”

Plenty of vendors set up shop at Saturday’s event, including a group of musician under the “Pickers’ Tent” who entertained the crowd with strains played on guitar, bass and banjo. Other performers darted through the clad dressed in animal costumes representing catfish, bears and eagles as the smell of funnel cakes and pizza drifted on the mild spring breeze.

Vestival co-founder Trudy Monaco

Vestival co-founder Trudy Monaco explained that Saturday marked the event’s 20th anniversary. The first Vestival was in 2001, she said, but there was a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Centered on the lawn of the old office building of Candoro Marble Company, Monaco described how the money earned from the early Vestivals was spent restoring the historic structure, which was built in 1923.

“We did everything,”she said. “We re-plastered the building, we put all-new electric in, we put a bathroom and a kitchen in put a itche in, seized the roof, and we removed all the asbestos.”

Monaco said that early event organizers were hoping to give the residents of Vestal something that would make them feel as though they were part of a community even though many households were too poor to even have running water. 

“It was because of the poverty in this area,” she explained. “People needed a lift. People’s parents had worked in this building. It gives people a sense of place, a sense of pride, and I thought it would really help them, too.”

Joy Grissom of the Native Plant Rescue Squad describes how her organization works to preserve East Tennessee’s botanical heritage at the group’s booth at Vestival. In her arms is elderberry, which she describes “as one of the most beneficial plants to the most diverse species of wildlife.”

Published on May 10, 2022.