The upcoming Racks by the Tracks Festival will offer a winning combination of barbecue, beer tasting and the country sounds of Diamond Rio.
Festival founder Kanishka Biddanda said this year’s festival is bigger and better than ever, with highlights that include award-winning country group Diamond Rio, over 40 unique craft beers and the best barbecue around the region. That’s exactly what the sixth annual Racks by the Tracks Festival in Kingsport will be providing Saturday, May 18, from noon to 11 p.m.
After five successful years and with over 9,500 people in attendance last year, Racks is growing again. In addition to beer and ribs, the headlining band is Grammy award winning Diamond Rio. Since forming in 1984, Diamond Rio has accumulated numerous awards, 13 Grammy Nominations and been named Vocal Group of the Year six times (ACM, CMA). Since the group’s debut single “Meet in the Middle” in 1991, hits such as “Beautiful Mess” and “One More Day” have landed the band a spot on the Billboard charts 33 times.
Biddanda said he and others worked for three months to bring a band with the prominence of Diamond Rio to Racks by the Tracks.
“They have sold over 10 million albums, have 33 billboard hits and are one of the most successful country groups in history,” Biddanda said. He added that the festival focuses on bringing artists that are family-friendly and popular across a large range of ages.
“Our community has blessed our little festival by growing with us year after year,” Biddanda said. “From the 450 attendees our first year to the over 9,500 last year, our community has helped our festival give away tens of thousands of dollars to local non-profits. As a way to say thank you, we want to invest in our community’s quality of life by bringing a major draw like Diamond Rio to our region. We are excited for families and young professionals to enjoy these incredible performers.”
Opening for Diamond Rio will be Mississippi Hall of Famer Webb Wilder, the well-known roots-rocker.
The festival lineup also includes blues legend Mac Arnold and closing the festival will be local favorite Benny Wilson. Concert tickets are $10. Entrance to the concert area requires a ticket which can be purchased online at www.RacksByTheTracks.com or at any Food City location.
The festival, held at the Farmers Market in Kingsport, includes a craft beer tasting featuring over 40 craft beers not available locally. Nearly 80 percent of these beers have never been featured in a beer tasting festival in this area. For those looking for an even more profound experience, an exclusive high gravity beer tasting will be available. Some breweries will even be brewing up special, one-time only Racks by the Tracks Festival brews. Each participant receives a souvenir tasting glass.
“We searched high and low to find great, hard-to-find beers for our audience,” Biddanda said. “They range from all over the nation — and four international breweries.”
He said a sampling of breweries include Turtle Anarchy from Franklin, Tenn.; New Planet from Boulder, Colo.; Wells & Youngs from the United Kingdom; Ommegang from Cooperstown, N.Y.; and Estrella Damm Daura from Barcelona, Spain.
“We’ll also have Wolf Hills Brewing and Depot Street Brewing, both from right here in the Tri-Cities,” Biddanda said.
He noted that Racks by the Tracks is the original craft beer tasting event in the region.
“Ever since we started, one of our major efforts has been to introduce our community to exciting new, commercially-available beers,” Biddanda said. “This year, we are featuring 35 beers that have never been featured at an event in the area before. In addition, we’ve doubled the size of the tasting area and have made it indoors and outdoors. This is the must-attend year!”
The beer tasting, from 2 to 7 p.m., has sold out the past four years, so those interested should buy their tickets well in advance. Tickets are $35. The Racks by the Tracks Facebook page will keep participants up-to-date on all participating breweries.
For those looking to fill their stomachs before sitting back to enjoy the show, the BBQ Cook-Off Competition will give attendees an opportunity to taste the best barbecue from local restaurants and individuals. Each attendee at the festival can cast a vote in four different Peoples Choice categories.
“Half of the barbecue competitors are made up of the top barbecue restaurants from across the Tri-Cities,” Biddanda said. “The other half of competitors represent the most talented and creative teams of barbecue enthusiasts from the region.”
Families may come listen to great music, eat great food and let the kids enjoy time in the free Kid’s Station, sponsored by Leaping Lizards. Kids will have a blast bouncing around in the large inflatables, as well as having their faces painted and other activities.
Festivities also include the Racks by the Tracks SPF 5K Race & Kid’s Mile. Proceeds from the 5K go towards free skin cancer screenings to be held in June by the Dermatology Associates of Kingsport. Registration for the races are available on the festival’s website.
The festival grounds are free and food can be purchased at menu prices. Concert tickets are $10. The craft beer tasting and concert ticket combo is $35. The limited quantity High Gravity Beer Tasting ticket is $45 and provides access to the concert, craft beer tasting and the high gravity section.
Keep posted on the festivities by joining the Racks by the Tracks Facebook page, as well as visiting the website. While entrance to the festival is free, all partakers must have a ticket to get access to the special events.
Proceeds benefit several regional non-profit organizations including Sullivan County Humane Society, Relay for Life, Downtown Kingsport Association and Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.
Biddanda invites the public to continue showing support for the growing festival.
“In five years, this has grown from being attended by 450 people in the first year to over 10,000 people in the fifth year. It’s become one of the biggest festivals in the region because families and individuals have come to look forward to a full day of fun, food and music worth much more than the price of entrance,” Biddanda said. “Plus, the festival benefits five great local non-profits that do a lot of good for our community.”
He said the festival has fulfilled its original purpose many times over. Biddanda, who is a local business owner, said many of his employees are 20 to 30 years old.
“I began to see many of them move out of our region because of a perceived lack of activities for young professionals and young families,” he said. “I wanted to give back to my community by being a part of the solution. So after a lot of assessment of what is thriving in larger markets that our community did not have, I saw how much interest was growing for craft beers and thought, what goes well with good beer? Great barbecue. And what’s a fun day with beer and barbecue need? Appealing music!
“While I knew music, beer and barbecue went perfect together, I never imagined the festival would become so popular,” he said. “It shows how supportive our community is for family-friendly activities. Through the community’s attendance, tens of thousands of dollars have been raised for local non-profit organizations, and that is the mark of success I am most excited about.”
For more information and beer tasting tickets, visit www.RacksByTheTracks.com or contact event organizers at 863-3998.