Poage Landing Days organizer Phillip Stewart isn’t worried about the weather forecast as this weekend’s annual Poage Landing Days festival gets under way at noon today.
“It never rains on Poage Landing Days. We’re preparing for big crowds,” said Stewart Thursday while dealing with the festival’s last-minute details, before encouraging people to bring umbrellas just in case. “We’re just going to have a big block party down here.”
Stewart said he is confident festival participants will like what they find waiting for them in downtown Ashland during this year’s celebration.
“We’ve got more vendors than we’ve ever had downtown before,” he said. “The arts and crafts tent, which we did extend by 40 feet, has more than we’ve ever had.”
Even with the expanded tent, Stewart said there still wasn’t enough space for many of the festival’s arts and crafts vendors who will instead be set up along the streets.
“We will also have at least 22 food vendors, which is the most we’ve ever had,” he said, adding this year’s event also has more participants for the annual barbecue cook off, which allows people attending Poage Landing Days to cast their vote for a favorite entry.The festival founder said he is also excited about this year’s musical acts, which range from improvised blues to highly polished professional stage shows and well-known hit songs.
“Diamond Rio has been on our wish list for many years. We are excited they’re here and anticipate big crowds for them,” he said, adding the band’s hit “One More Day” will be used as a memorial for Poage Landing Days committee members who have passed away, including a balloon release in their honor.
Stewart said the festival has also received a shocking number of notes, calls and emails about Sunday’s performance by The Steeldrivers.
“They are our bluesy bluegrass band. They’re just outstanding,” he said, adding his own endorsement for the band’s sound to anyone who is unfamiliar with their approach to contemporary bluegrass styles.
This year’s Southern Fried Cone Fest, a downhill slalom contest for skateboarders, is also expected to draw a big crowd of spectators as well as participants. The race has been allotted additional points this year, making it an event of interest to skateboard enthusiasts worldwide.
“We are happy about that. They are watching the forecast probably harder than anybody,” Stewart said, adding contest organizers are investigating possible indoor venues for the races if the rain forces them off the street.
“People are coming from across the country and from two foreign countries for that,” he said, adding Ashland has earned an excellent reputation within the downhill skateboard community.
“They love Ashland and it’s not just for the skateboard race. They love coming here,” he said.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at