The summer festival commonly known as Kingsport Fun Fest began in the fall of 1980 when Kingsport Chamber staff and board members conducted their annual weekend retreat to discuss matters of paramount importance. At this time, the staff and board found numerous situations that tended to divide the community--ranging from political issues (such as annexation, liquor by the drink, etc.) to extreme and unhealthy rivalries among local high schools. Noting these concerns, the group sought to create a program that would build a more positive attitude about the Kingsport community and a more friendly nature among its residents.
In 1981, founders stated an original theme of "Community Unity." Fun Fest's sole objective was "to promote unity, harmony, fellowship and cooperation among people in the greater Kingsport Area. . . . If tourist attraction and/or economic development benefits accrue, this is desirable; however, promotion of Fun Fest should not be conducted with those objectives primarily in mind." In addition to this objective, all events (to the extent possible) should be free of charge or at low cost, and open to the general public. Events should also be appealing to all age groups, and to people with varying interests. In short, Fun Fest was created as an effort to unite Kingsport residents, to help foster a belief that Kingsport is a caring community that is a good place to live and to work, and to provide numerous opportunities for people to congregate and become acquainted while appealing to their interests in culture, athletics, arts and entertainment.