04/24/05 — Pickle festival draws big crowd

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Pickle festival draws big crowd

By Turner Walston
Published in News on April 24, 2005 2:00 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Braving ominous weather warnings, a crowd of about 25,000 gathered downtown Saturday for the 19th annual N.C. Pickle Festival.

"This is particularly wonderful because we had all the dire predictions with wind and thunderstorms," said Patti O'Donoghue, president of the Mt. Olive Chamber of Commerce.

"We've got a great crowd that has shown a lot of enthusiasm," Ms. O'Donoghue said.

She said that the festival was quickly becoming "one of the best known in North Carolina."

This year's Festival Weekend kicked off with a concert from the Band of Oz at the Mt. Olive Municipal Airport.

Over one hundred vendors set up shop on Center street, selling food, crafts and clothing.

Sam and Debra Heim brought The Funnel Cake Shoppe from Middleburg, VA.

"It's a blast," Heim said. He said he'd been so busy he didn't have much time to look up. "We're having a good time. It's a very nice crowd, and a nice town. We'd definitely do it again."

"Absolutely," added Ms. Heim.

Riders from King BMX Stunt Shows wowed the crowd with tricks. One rider jumped over several children on his bike.

Motorcycles fromthe Harley Motorcycle show lined the south end of Center Street with antique cars from the Wayne County Cruisers on the north end.

The children's area of the festival featured carnival rides, a petting zoo, pony rides and face painting.

"I think the turnout's great, considering the weather," Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree said. "A lot of people held out, but we're getting close to what we had last year."

Ms. O'Donoghue said the pickle gives Mount Olive a unique identity. "We are the pickle capital of the universe," she said. "Everywhere we go, people know the pickles."

She said the festival would not be able to take place without its many volunteers and sponsors.

"After the festival, we begin planning for next year. We'll look at challenges, and try to address them for the next year," Ms. O'Donoghue said.

This year's festival featured a Pickle Recipe Contest, sponsored by Piggly Wiggly, for the first time. Of the eight entries, three winners were chosen. Monteria Parker won first place with her pickle muffins. Katie Harris Vann's festival vegetable dip won second place. Jon Therrien prepared Pickle Pedro's salsa, winning third place.

This year's pickle festival T-shirt design came to Ms. O'Donoghue from a faraway land. Literally.

"We went to Egypt in December," she said. "Everyone there was on cell phones. On the street, on camels, everyone was on cell phones." She made sure that cell phones were incorporated into this year's design. The 2005 shirt depicts pickle characters on cell phones telling one another about the festival.

Ms. O'Donoghue says festival T-shirts and hats have won awards at festival conventions for several years.

Trinity Wright, crowned Miss United States in October, wore green for the festival. "I had to be a little festive," she said.

Ms. Wright said she enjoyed the small-town feel of the festival. "I love it. Everyone here is so friendly. And I love the free pickles!"