04/30/06 — Thousands crowd town for annual pickle festival

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Thousands crowd town for annual pickle festival

By Turner Walston
Published in News on April 30, 2006 2:07 AM

MOUNT OLIVE „ There was plenty to relish at the 20th North Carolina Pickle Festival on Saturday. Food, music, crafts, rides and games lined the streets of Mount Olive. With temperatures in the mid-60s most of the day, men, women and children of all ages enjoyed the pickly festivities.

ñYou couldnÍt ask for a nicer day,î said Matt Kearney, 21. ñI like festivals, and pickles are OK too, so I figured IÍd put the two together,î he joked. Kirsten Haswell, 19, decided to eat her first pickle at the Pickle Festival. ñI always take them off my sandwiches,î she said. ñI donÍt even like cucumbers.î

After sampling the food of the day at a Mt. Olive Pickle Company booth, Ms. Haswell said she preferred the bread and butter pickles to kosher. ñI felt like I should enjoy the festivities along with everyone else,î she said of her experience. A Raleigh native, Ms. Haswell said she had heard about the festival, and wanted to see what it was all about.

ñThereÍs always something around the next corner,î she said. ñIÍd definitely come back.î Festivalgoers had plenty to do. There were three stages of music. Vendors sold their wares along the townÍs streets. There were handbags, pan pipes, wind chimes, Beanie Babies, silver jewelry, bamboo crafts, shirts, puppets, birdhouses and hair coloring booths. Want to enter a raffle for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, you could do that, too. And in what could be a sign of the times, there were several raffles for gas cards. They didnÍt go hungry, either. In addition to pickles, there was pizza, ice cream, strawberries, hot dogs, sausage dogs, hamburgers, snow cones, cheese steaks, fries, turkey tenderloin and bratwurst. Doug Wiggins volunteered with Boy Scout Troop 755 of Mount Olive to sell hot dogs, sausage dogs and soft drinks.

ñWeÍve been rotating all day,î Wiggins said. More than 15 Scouts were joined by their parents at the booth. ñWeÍre trying to raise some money to go to Boy Scout camp and Cub Scout Camp. Wiggins said the troop was having a good day at the cash register. ñPeople like these hot dogs,î he said. More than 160 cars lined the north end of Center Street for the Wayne County Cruisers Car Show. ñThis is, without a doubt, the biggest show that anybody puts on around here,î said Charles Echols, president of the Wayne County Cruisers. Vehicles on display came as far away as Richmond, Va. to the show. Echols said the club had been holding a show at the Pickle Festival for 11 years. ñItÍs getting bigger and better every year,î he said. ñWe love doing it.î Done Hamm and The Life on the Line Band played the festival for the fourth consecutive year.

ñItÍs one of the events that we look forward to every year,î Hamm said. ItÍs a good atmosphere. All of them have been real positive for us.î Hamm said the pickle festival starts the bandÍs summer season of shows. ñIt was a great day, there were a lot of people there,î said drummer Mike Bryan. He said the band signed autographs and sold albums following the set. ñOur band had a lot of support from our families and friends,î Bryan said. ñThatÍs what makes it all worthwhile. We look forward to this all year long.î Gena Knode, president of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, said the festival continues to grow.

ñEvery year weÍve made a concerted effort to add more and more,î she said. In addition to the traditional festival T-shirts and hats, this year CD-ROMS and stamps were for sale. ñMost of the T-shirts were sold before today,î Mrs. Knode said.

ñFrom all indications, everyone has had a good time,î Mrs. Knode said. ñThe weather has cooperated. WeÍve had better participation than we anticipated.î Though this is her first year as president of the chamber of commerce, Mrs. Knode has been co-chairman of the festival committee since 1997.

ñItÍs a novel theme,î she said of the Pickle Festival. ñIf youÍre going to have a festival, you might as well make it one with a quirky title.î After two critique meetings, Mrs. Knode said attention will turn to next yearÍs festival. ñWeÍve got a ton of stuff booked for 2007,î she said. ñItÍs a constantly-ongoing project.î