Popular band Guy Marshall closes out the 17th annual Vestival on the main stage at the Candoro Arts & Heritage Center.

Vestival, South Knoxville’s annual arts and heritage festival, is known for promoting Appalachian culture and Vestal history. It tends to draw SoKno locals and lovers of old-time music and crafts from throughout Knox County and the region.

But this year’s Vestival achieved the near-impossible. It drew visitors from the other side of the world – New Zealand!

Looking for cute kids to photograph, I came upon Lexi Long, a rising first-grader at Mount Olive Elementary, getting ice cream and playing with an orange helium balloon. I then ran into Geneva Clayton, a 12-year-old carrying an impressive amount of funnel cake on a plate.

Turns out the two kids were connected.

The man I assumed was Lexi’s father was her uncle, Richard Ross, brother of Lexi’s mom. Ross is a Canadian, but he has lived in New Zealand for the past five years. He and his partner, Syretta Clayton, are in town with Geneva and brother Liam, 11, for a visit.

Easily winning the prize as guests from farthest away are the Ross-Clayton family from Rotorua, New Zealand. From left are Richard Ross, Geneva Clayton, 12, Syretta Clayton and Liam Clayton, 11, with Ross’s niece, Lexi Long of Vestival, in front.

Knoxville was the first stop in a year of travel for the family. Syretta Clayton said they were excited to attend Vestival and said she’d already made several connections, including one for a yoga class.

It’s a small world after all.

In addition to craft and food vendors fulfilling every retail and culinary desire, the grounds of the Candoro Arts & Heritage Center featured several hubs of music and other entertainment. Guy Marshall, a popular local band that performed at Vestival four years ago, made a triumphant return as the headliner.

The weather was sunny and not too warm, and the crowd was steady but not overwhelming. Always scheduled for the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, Vestival was the perfect treat for all members of the family.

Liam Clayton interacts with members of the Cattywampus Puppet Council.



The Knox Co. Jug Stompers bring an old-time sound to the main stage.

Everyone is welcome at the Vestival Pickers’ Tent.

David Bolt and Jim Gray of the Sustainable Future Center finally get a break from a day of volunteering at Vestival. Bolt’s Tesla was a big attraction at the event.

Written by Betsy Pickle
South Knox betsypickle@yahoo.com 865-405-3512