04/26/09 — Visitors try some new spots at Pickle Festival

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Visitors try some new spots at Pickle Festival

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on April 26, 2009 2:00 AM

Kim Martiniuk kicked off her shoes and jumped head-first into the rubbery red corral where the great beast waited.

She vaulted effortlessly onto its back, gripped the leather thong tightly with both hands and glanced at the man standing to one side.

The noise from the crowd drowned out her words, but somehow, he heard and understood what she was trying to say. He nodded back to the rider, and the big bull cut loose with a wild abandon.

It spun, bucked, and even reversed direction, but to the crowd's delight, Ms. Martiniuk was getting her ride. The bull's horns quivered as she tore one hand loose from the strap and raised it to the sky, hanging on with a single arm.

She waved her hand in the classic cowboy pose and whooped to a friend standing on the sidelines. For a moment, there was a rodeo rider in the making in the heart of Mount Olive.

But it didn't last.

A sudden jerk to the side yanked her out of the saddle, and the University of North Carolina student went flying.

Ms. Martiniuk landed on the padded corral wall, then bounced back to her feet. Her hair was mussed, but there was a big smile on her face. She waved to the operator again.

She wanted another go.

The mechanical bull set up behind the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce was one of the many activities available for pickle lovers of all ages at the 2009 North Carolina Pickle Festival.

"It's just the festival, you have to ride the bull at the festival," Ms. Martiniuk said, after both she and friend, Amie Lisa Hook, took a turn at taming the mechanical monster.

"It looks easy, but it's a lot harder than it looks," she said.

Ms. Hook also tried the one-handed move, but like her friend, ended up slipping off the front of the bull's shoulder.

"You don't realize how quickly you'll get spun off," she said.

The bull riding was popular with festival attendees, but people seeking a different kind of adventure only had to walk a short way across the concourse to find it.

Treasure hunters and hobbyist geologists, and plenty of curious children, were hunched over pans of nondescript dirt, dunking the metal-sieve trays into a flowing stream of rust-colored water.

Claudia Wiggins, 8, reached into her tray and fished out a bright speck of yellow hidden among the bits of black and brown mining slag.

"What have you found this time?" asked her mother, Shannon Wiggins.

The two consulted a helpful chart, comparing the tiny rock to the photographs.

"It's honey calcinite," Mrs. Wiggins decided, showing her daughter how the treasure looked just like the photo.

Meanwhile, nephew Bryce, 10, had found another piece of quartz to add to his own growing collection.

"The purple one" was Claudia's favorite, she said, pointing to the tiny bit of amethyst, but she looked on wih interest as a bigger chunk of soft pink stone that appeared among the debris just a moment later.

"That's rose quartz, yeah," Mrs. Wiggins told her.

The mining was "kind of tricky," Claudia said, but fun, and they got to keep their special finds.

As the day wore on, the hot April sun coaxed streaks of tar from the railroad tracks and sent people flocking to the meager shade. Long lines formed at the booths selling snow cones and ice cream as people attending the festival tried to find ways to stay cool as the temperature rose into the mid 80s.

Nicole Ferrell knew a way she and her friends could beat the heat, but it meant war.

Water war.

It was the Ferrells versus the Pittmans in a water-balloon frenzy to see who would go home the victor, and who would go home needing to change their soaking wet clothes.

The battle raged uselessly for the first few minutes as both teams figured out how to aim and fire their water-balloon slingshots, and more than one volley exploded as it left the hole cut into the water wars booths. Before long, though, both teams had a rhythm going: one pulling back the slingshot while another reloaded.

Most of the shots impacted on the slotted rooftops, sending splatters of cold water raining down on the teams hunkered inside. But they soon learned a more efficient way of drenching their foes, and simply aimed short of the target, letting the backwash spray up through the yellow grating in wide arcs.

But one lucky eagle found its way in through the Ferrells' porthole, breaking open as it landed on top of them.

"Bullseye!" yelled Brian Pittman.

It was Nicole Ferrell's idea to check out the water balloon tossing to take the edge off the late spring heat.

"I just kept telling them, we got to get wet because it's so hot," she said.

So who won the final round?

"The Pittmans. Look at her, she's all wet," said Brian Pittman, pointing to Nicole. "We just mowed them, we wiped them out."