Popcorn Sutton Jam returns to Newport

Moonshiner Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, who died in 2009, is the inspiration behind the annual Popcorn Sutton Jam, which returns to Newport this weekend.

The 9th Annual Popcorn Sutton Jam will be coming to Newport this weekend with a lineup of bands and vendors and music will be the focal point for the two-day festival.

Pam Sutton, wife of the late Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, said Wednesday the band lineup should be exceptional.

“We’ve got some old ones, we’ve got some new ones,” she said. “I’m hoping this will be a good year.”

Some of the bands in the lineup include local band Tom’s Handgun, who plays original songs with a blues rock vibe, and Caleb Jones, who brings a country and southern rock flair to the festival.

Austin Snider, drummer for Tom’s Handgun, said Wednesday the band was looking forward to playing the festival for a second year in a row.

“We played there last year, too,” he said. “We were kind of a late addition.”

He said they aren’t a late addition this year because after they finished their set last year they were asked almost immediately to come back.

Snider said they had fun at the moonshiner festival. He said it was very family friendly.

“The crowd was really good,” he said. “Everyone was having a good time.”

The festival started out as a way to honor legendary Cocke County and North Carolina moonshiner Popcorn Sutton. Sutton was a bootlegger who wrote a self-published autobiography and guide to moonshine production called “Me and My Likker.”

The New York Times ran a review on the book and he started making television appearances, bringing his rise to fame.

He always wore a hat and bib overalls. He was born in Maggie Valley, North Carolina and also lived a number of years in Cocke County.

He got the name “Popcorn” when he attacked a faulty popcorn machine with a pool cue.

He died in 2009, just days before he was to go to federal prison.

Pam Sutton said this year’s event has sponsors: English Mountain Spring Water, Quantum H2O and Cape Fear Heating & Air.

“This is the first year we’ve had sponsors,” she said.

There will be plenty of vendors on hand selling food like beef jerky, barbecue, pinto beans, cornbread, baked goods and Italian ice, as well handmade jewelry.

There will also be old tractors and engines on display.

One of the highlights of the festival will be at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Each year they host the “Miss Jugs” contest, which raises money for breast cancer awareness.

But, there’s a catch.

“It’s not young ladies,” she said. “It’s for gentleman.”

She said the men who participate have a fun time designing their costumes and getting ready for the event, which is all for good fun and a worthy cause.

Cost is $10 per person and children 12 and under are free. Gates open on Friday at 3 p.m. with music starting at 4 p.m. On Saturday, the gates open at 11 a.m. and music starts at noon.

The event will be held at the Cocke County A&I Fairgrounds.