Flowering fun returns to downtown Fremont
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 27, 2005 2:03 AM
FREMONT -- Overcast skies did not keep the devoted from attending the Daffodil Festival in downtown Fremont on Saturday. The crowd grew as the day wore on and the sun broke through the clouds in the afternoon.
Mid-morning, vendor Cheta Rose sat at her booth on Main Street with her coat fastened and her hood over her head.
"It's cold," she said. The Grantham woman had arrived at 8:30 a.m. to set up her wares: pocketbooks she and daughter Tina Blackman had made.
She was optimistic, about the festival as well as the weather. She said she was impressed with the other vendors, pointing out things she hadn't seen in years past, such as handmade birdhouses.
"I may have to go over and buy one of those to take home with me," she said.
At the nearby "Bear Creek Carver" booth, Bobby and Cathy Mayo of Rosewood were enjoying their second year selling at the festival. Mrs. Mayo crafted handmade pocketbooks and painted flower pots; her husband relied on his 40-year hobby of woodcarving paying off.
"I picked it up from my grandad," he said. "I used to see him sit and whittle down to nothing. When I got old enough, he handed me a pocketknife and I started making arrowheads out of cedar shingles."
He now uses birch wood, admitting it's not always easy to find a straight piece.
At first glance, his carvings resemble a varnished walking stick. A closer look showed them to be as unique and varied as the potential home they'll go to. Mayo said he'll carve anything he's asked, the most popular choice being a family tree.
Jana Barfield of Goldsboro was posted at a table selling raffle tickets for Fremont Methodist Preschool, where she works. Her mother, Vicky Griffin of Goldsboro, brought Mrs. Barfield's children, Dawson, 2, and 6-year-old Beth.
"I always wanted to come," Mrs. Griffin said. "But I've always been out of town. I came today, and I'm really impressed."
As she fed a hotdog to Dawson in his stroller, Beth enjoyed a cup of shaved ice. Beth said the grape-flavored treat and the children's rides were her reasons for coming.
Of course, traditional fair offerings could also be found -- funnel cakes, cotton candy and giant turkey legs, as well as horse-drawn trolley rides, face-painting, and Children's Alley, with more carnival-type rides this year.
Fremont Volunteer Fire Department sold barbecue chicken lunches, and Fremont Rotary Club again sold barbecue plates as a fund-raiser.
Rotary member Anthony Edwards said the draw was Fats Sauls' barbecue, a staple of the annual festival.
"He cooks the barbecue for us," he said. "He's very well-known around here."
Festival queens chosen this year were Laura Evans, a Wayne Community College freshman, as Miss Daffodil, and Jessie Stewart, a fifth-grader at Fremont STARS Elementary School, as Little Miss Daffodil.
Betty Hughes and Garry Best of Mount Olive arrived before noon and strolled past the vendors' booths. They said they timed their arrival around the music. At one end of Main Street the Charles B. Aycock High School Jazz Ensemble was performing, while at the opposite end the stage was being set up for the Band of Oz, returning after a year's absence.
Brian Smiley was one of the deputies from Wayne County Sheriff's Office assigned to foot patrol for the festival. He said it was his first time at the Daffodil Festival, and the crowd had been pretty orderly.
Longtime Fremont resident and now Mayor Devone Jones, attending his second festival as town leader, said he was proud of his hometown.
"Fremont has such good people; they're so friendly," he said. "When people come to the festival, to see them socializing, and groups like the fire departments, clubs and vendors, it's just wonderful to see all the people coming."
He was particularly pleased to point out some changes to the downtown's appearance this year. The town has upgraded the sidewalks, adding street lamps to replace telephone poles and exposed wiring that are all now underground.
"It just makes the downtown area look a lot better," said Keith Stewart, a member of the festival's planning committee since it began 19 years ago.
Despite the sun's late arrival, he said he still loves the festival.
"If it doesn't rain, it's a success," he said. Other measures, he said, were having happy vendors and the chance to see people he hadn't seen in the past year.
Jean Thorne has been on the planning committee since 1991. Response from vendors this year was good, she said, with only one no-show. She counted 58 vendors.
One new addition this year, Stewart said, was the Red Cross bloodmobile, with adults asked to donate blood.
The general plan, though, was to stick with what has worked in years past, he said.
"I think having unique crafts, foods that are both fair type and other favorites, that stuff that you know is going to work well," he said. "Our success really is that so many of the people are repeat" visitors.
He admitted there will always be a little stress the week before the festival regarding the weather. But as soon as it's over, before any of the daffodils wilt, the committee will be planning the 20th festival. Stewart said the first meeting has already been set for Thursday.
"We'll be talking about what went well and what we could have done better," he said, "so that we can improve for next year."
Stewart also said donations to the beautify the town will be used in the coming months to re-landscape Daffodil Park on U.S. 117 North, with new flower beds, bushes and shrubs, as well as new memorials.
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