Blue skies and sunshine over the weekend ensured the annual Lenoir City Arts and Crafts Festival attracted thousands to peruse various handmade items in Lenoir City Park.

For more than 50 years the festival has been a destination for the county. Mary Bright, GFWC Suburbia Women’s Club president, believes that is special.

“It brings a tremendous amount of people into the county, people that are coming in and staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants, so it really brings a lot of money into the county,” Bright said.

The GWFC Suburbia Women’s Club of Lenoir City puts on the event annually with help from Tellico Village and Loudon Lions clubs, local Boy Scouts and the Lenoir City High School girls volleyball team.

All of those groups play an invaluable role in making the festival operate, Bright said.

“We could not put this on without the help of these several groups,” she said. “They are really kind of our — they’re just so valuable to us.”

Bright estimated about 165 vendors, not including food, came from as far as Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Melonie and David Thompson packed their bags and traveled 4-5 hours from Danville, Ala., to sell metal yard art. Last weekend marked the 23rd year the couple made the trip up to Lenoir City.

“I mean the people of the show, they’re very nice and accommodative, and we just enjoy coming to this area,” Melonie Thompson said. “The show is good too, but we just enjoy the atmosphere, I guess. There are just some shows that are more fun than others, you know?”

The festival also served as a good way to showcase their product.

“We have to make different things since we’ve been coming so many years,” she said. “We have to be thinking of new things and different things because a lot of the same people come back every year. We started out doing — well, he’s a blacksmith so he used to do all kinds of planters and fireplace sets and all that when we first started and then he started cutting out the little angels up there and it just snowballed from there. Just the yard art has gotten really popular over the last few years so that’s what he’s focusing on now.”

This was the first year for vendor Holli Chastain, who started Heaven Scent Soap Company with her mother in Sylva, N.C. Chastain heard about the festival through another vendor.

“We’ve done a few in the last six months, probably nothing this big,” Chastain said. “… Being a brand new business that’s just a lot of exposure when you’re brand new to get your name out and for people to try products.”

The festival also serves as a tradition for some, including Bright, who for more than three decades prior to moving back to the area would make the trip from all over the Southeast with her daughter.

“Every year there are families that come that have traditionally come,” Bright said. “I lived away from here for 35 years and for 35 years we took vacation the first week of June and came back to this festival. I mean my daughter is in the club now and she grew up coming to this festival. She knew the first weekend in June we were going to be in East Tennessee.”

Lenoir City resident Misty Bryant said tradition would be the best way to describe her visits the past about 15 years with her mother.

“To see the new creations each year, to see what they’ve come up with new,” Bryant said.