04/25/08 — Ready, set, pickle

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Ready, set, pickle

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on April 25, 2008 1:45 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The excitement is building in Mount Olive today as the 22nd annual North Carolina Pickle Festival gets under way. The event started with a golf tournament Thursday and will continue with carnival rides this evening in the old Peebles parking lot downtown from 5 to 9 p.m. and a dance starting at 8 p.m. at the Mount Olive Airport featuring the Band of Oz.

Ernie Taylor, chairman of the board of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, said planners have been working feverishly to get ready for the event, which celebrates one of the area's chief exports -- the mighty pickle.

"We've got a lot going on," Taylor said. "The town is ready, the chamber is ready, and the Pickle Festival committee is ready."

The event drew an estimated 20,000 people last year and organizers hope even more will attend this year. The weather is expected to be good, with temperatures on Saturday in the 80s and only a slight chance of an afternoon thunderstorm.

The festival is the major annual fundraising event for the Waylin Foundation that is the charitable arm of the chamber. The foundation supports a variety of worthy endeavors, including physician recruitment, Crime Stoppers and local public schools.

Gates will open at 7 p.m. for tonight's dance, which will also feature a shagging contest and beer garden. No coolers will be allowed.

Events on Saturday will begin early, with a 5-kilometer Cucumber Patch road run at 8 a.m. It will start at the Kornegay Arena parking lot.

The Tour de Pickle bicycle ride starts at 9 a.m., beginning at the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Riders can choose from 25-, 50- and 75-mile routes, or take part in a 14-mile fun ride.

In order to avoid downtown traffic snarls, a shuttle bus will be running from the Kornegay Arena parking lot to the old Peebles parking lot downtown.

The carnival rides will start up again at 9 a.m. and run until 5 p.m.

Other events are almost too numerous to name. They include displays by the Harley Owners Group, the Wayne County Cruisers Car Club and an antique tractor show. All run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Activities for children will be going on all day, from face-painting booths to a petting zoo and other games.

Entertainment will be provided on four stages, with a number of musical groups and dance groups performing, starting at 9 a.m. The Center Street stage will feature Avalanche, Natty Boh, Neo-Fusion, Civil Twilight, the Bill Ely Band, Buffalo Country, the UnderCover Band and CC Ryder.

The stage at the corner of Center and Pollock streets will showcase Ahmad James, Mr. Mount Olive College, Bridgett Mooring and Katie Wheeler, Miss and Teen Wilson, FIne Cut, Faith Walkers 4 Quartet, the Kountry Kickers, Paul Black, the Southern Breeze Band, Southern Touch, Idle Threat, A Tribute to Elvis and Life on the Line.

At the state on the corner of Chestnut and James streets, performances will be held by the Seeking Reflection Band, Mount Olive College Free Spirit, Jerry Thomas Strickland, the Mount Olive PH Choir and Band, the Whitley Church Choir and Band, Dance for Christ, the Good Morning Mercy Band, the Down East Trio, Ted Filhart and the Matt Bartlett Band.

On the dancers stage near First Baptist Church will be the Mount Olive College Singers, East Country Hoedowners, Tippy Toes Dance Studio, Mrs. Robins Academy of Dance, Desiree Autrey's Academy of Performing Arts, the N.C. Pickle Princess Court, Dancin Daze Dance Studio, The Arts Company, North Carolina USOA state queens, the Ashley Winders, the queen of the Wayne County high schools, CMIT Production queens, Black Price, the Boys from Carolina Bluegrass and the Elder Brother Jazz Trio.

Storyteller Grandma Joy will be in the children's area at noon.

The Keith King Bicycle Stunt Team will perform at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Center Street.

Pig and duck races will be held on James Street, with a drumline performance on Main Street at 11:30 a.m. and something new, a pickle ball tournament starting at noon on Main Street. Pickleball doesn't actually involve pickles, but is a growing sport that combines elements of tennis, ping pong and badminton.

Other events will include mechanical bull rides, a rock climbing wall, book sale by the Friends of the Wayne County Library, a pickle derby, Jingles the Clown, Sopey A Clown, adult tricycle competition, pony rides and the WATCH van.

The festival will conclude Sunday with a church choir celebration at First Baptist Church.