On Sept. 16, hundreds of people from around the Tennessee Valley converged on Ocoee Valley Farms for a day of fun and fundraising. The Trek Thru Truth Fall Festival, designed to build awareness and raise funds for the emerging Christian children’s museum, took place even as the staff, volunteers, vendors, and singers braved pockets of rain throughout the day.
“We were really encouraged to see the families who came out and enjoyed a great day at the farm,” said DeWayne Hamby, executive director for Trek Thru Truth. “The rain may have cut a few of the musical sets short and certainly impacted the attendance, but I think everyone who came saw the work that was put into it and enjoyed a variety of great food and crafts.”
The fall festival, sponsored by Route 60: The Biblical Highway, Ross Construction LLC, Caldwell Paving, and realtor Carol Kamm, offered something for the entire family, including a lineup of local musical acts, fun activities such as the River Maze and the Kiddie Zip Line, a great turnout of local artisans displaying their handiwork, and several food trucks and booths offering hearty meals and sweet treats.
Many of the musicians and singers, such as Street Revival, the Appalachian String Band, Karly and Kifton Blackwell, Matt Parks, LeAnn Hamby, and H.E. Cardin were “troopers,” Hamby said, performing in the rain, either in full downpour or a light drizzle. Three Nails, which closed the event with a rousing selection of gospel songs, relocated under the covering of the patio. Regardless, spirits were lifted and those who listened were inspired. J103FM was also on hand doing a live remote through the afternoon.
The crafts vendor products included freeze dried candy, jewelry, candles, home decor, and more. Jewelscent’s Kristin Ringler won a drawing for an Ocoee Dam Deli gift certificate, one of many graciously provided by the River Maze’s neighboring eatery,for referring other vendors to the festival. Several food trucks were also on hand, including The Bishop’s Barbecue and Burgers , The Char-Pit, and D’s Meltz, along with some secondary food offerings. The participating food trucks and snack booths were encouraged to offer special dishes made with corn, which customers then voted on. Bishops won the contest, The Char-Pit was a close runner-up and D’s Meltz’ brussel sprouts proved to be a favorite among the diners as well.
Jill Caywood, Events and Planning Coordinator for Trek Thru Truth, was the heartbeat of the festival, whether it was organizing the vendor area and meeting their needs, or interacting with attendees at the Trek Thru Truth exhibit area. Her husband, Doug, who is president and CEO of the museum, helped organize a small army of volunteers that included Trek Thru Truth board members and students from Bradley Central High School.
“We could not have done it without them,” Caywood said. “The volunteers brought energy, joy, and helped us with all kinds of duties, including parking, photography, sales, and more.”
Of the volunteers, Elizabeth Ross, a freshman at Bradley, was recognized for going the extra mile and dubbed “Volunteer of the Day.” She was recognized by the leadership and presented with a gift certificate for her efforts to make the day extra special for attendees.
Shelley Redmon, who traveled from Franklin, Tennessee, to attend with her son William and husband Bryan, said, “Our family enjoyed the Trek Thru Truth Fall Festival immensely! The farm had such fun activities our kids didn’t want to leave! We loved that we had a great time and supported a cause we believe in.”
The fall festival, the first one ever sponsored by Trek Thru Truth, faced its weather challenges with grace and optimism in hopes for what lies ahead in the future. Along with the major sponsors already mentioned, other supporters included The Lewis Group Architects, Boston Uncommon, Good News CM, SkyMedia423, Jaimi Wright Photography, and Publix. With sponsors, volunteers, vendors, and musicians, the day showed a glimpse of what community involvement in a major project such as the developing museum will look like.
“Having this festival at Ocoee Valley Farms was the first win,” Hamby said. “There’s just so much room with the most beautiful backdrop, and the Fetzers are such gracious hosts. Also, it was inspiring to see so many people come together to enjoy being with each other.”
The Trek Thru Truth museum is currently in development for the Bradley-Polk County area and will host 52 permanent exhibits designed to inspire and educate children and families with stories of the Bible.