Saturday vendor market at Johnson to bring attention to 'castle' playground

Rick Wagner • Jun 1, 2018 at 3:42 PM

KINGSPORT —  If you want to help with or learn more about the pending replacement of Johnson Elementary School’s iconic “castle” playground that turns 28 this year or just have fun with food trucks, vendors and prizes, Saturday is your day.

Johnson’s Parent Teacher Organization has scheduled a vendor market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school. 

Lacey Robinson, PTO secretary, said the group reached out to several local businesses to see if they were interested in an event to help spread awareness about the playground project “and the response has been overwhelming.” The current playground, built in 1990 and used year round by folks across Kingsport and beyond, is nearing the end of its useful life, and plans are to reconstruct it in the same castle motif but using a longer-lasting composite material than the current wood.

The playground project has a Facebook page at AJES PTO and a website at castleofkingsport.com/.

“The cost of the playground is about $189,000. We are still in communication with Play by Design (which is designing the playground) to get the price down some more,” PTO President Jess Hogan said. “We need 70 percent to start the build. Lions Club of Kingsport recently gave us $5,000 towards the playground.”

The playground was to have been replaced after fundraising efforts began in 2015 and continued in 2016, but a lack of funds has continued to delay the project. According to information from the city of Kingsport, the “castle” is the second most-used playground in the city, with Darrell’s Dream Boundless Dream Playground at Warriors Path State Park the first.

“We will also have a table set up for visitors and businesses to donate to the castle playground project and sign up to receive future info from the PTO,” Robinson said. She was quick to emphasize that the event is not a fundraiser since the nonprofit PTO can have only two of those a year.

Hogan said Saturday’s event will be held rain or shine. It is to feature 48 vendors, including food trucks. Sellers of home goods, specialized products and services, beauty products, clothing and jewelry have also signed up for the market. Also, 28 businesses, some overlapping with market participants, have donated items or gift cards for giveaway drawings.

“We are making up gift baskets with the donations from local businesses, and with a donation to the playground, their (the donor’s) name will be put in a basket to win a prize,” Hogan said.