10/11/09 — Faison Market Day honors town's long agricultural heritage

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Faison Market Day honors town's long agricultural heritage

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 11, 2009 2:00 AM

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The Southern Produce float, featuring sweet potatoes, was one of the more seasonal and colorful entries in the Faison Market Day parade Saturday morning.

The sixth annual Faison Market Day began Saturday under the threat of rain, but the skies remained clear for the morning as vendors lined Main Street and the smell of funnel cakes and fresh-roasted nuts filled the air.

Local businesses and organizations were up before dawn to set up their booths along the street in Faison, hoping to raise money for a cause or draw in more loyal customers.

At the Thomas Vineyards booth, where the Beaulaville based family business was selling a variety of ciders and jellies, Cathy Johnson tried a bite of a brand-new product: Southern Moonshine Jelly.

It tasted a bit like apples, she reported.

"A lot of people say it tastes like apples, and just a bit of 'shine," owner Byron Thomas said.

The Thomas family produces muscadine grapes and more unusual products, including sweet potato butter. It was their first time at the Faison Market Day, but the festival supporting agriculture was a hit for them.

"I love it, I think it's great," Thomas said. "It should happen more often."

The Faison Fire Department held a Fill the Boot raffle for a full-size camper to raise money for the fire department's operations. The $5 tickets will help the department pay for expenses in a tough economic year, Chief Don Taylor said.

The William Lee family donated the camper for the raffle. The department also sold tickets to the upcoming breakfast at Andy's on Oct. 31.

JoAnn Price of Seven Springs was one of many vendors selling homemade goods, but the stained glass wind chimes and sun catchers she makes herself are mostly a hobby, she said. Her stained glass creations came about many years ago when she was doing a little home improvement project.

"I wanted to put stained glass in my kitchen windows. I took a class and it went from there," she said. "I've been doing it off and on ever since."

Her favorite stained glass creations are the brightly-colored fish designs, made in her own kiln at home.

The Faison Market Day festival was created to shine a spotlight on the importance of agriculture and its role in the town of Faison's heritage. The North Duplin County Fire Honor Guard presented the colors at the opening ceremony, and the North Duplin High School band performed the national anthem.

During the ceremony, the Duplin County Cooperative Extension recognized Ralph Britt Jr. as Farmer of the Year, and Sammy Fields as Right-hand Man of the Year.

Britt was born and raised in Beautancus and attended North Duplin High School. He played tight end for N.C. State University, and was drafted to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1980s. Britt and his wife and two children attend Calypso Baptist Church. Luke Britt accepted the award on behalf of his father.

Fields, a Mount Olive native, grew up doing farm work and attended Southern Wayne High School. He went on to work for the Ford Motor Company and as a truck driver, and has worked with Southern States Farm Insurance for more than 20 years. Fields and his family attend Faison Presbyterian Church.

"You have earned it in so many ways," presenter L.S. Guy Jr. told the winners.

The Faison Improvement Group also took the opportunity to honor a group of people who have been integral to Faison's development, but until this year, had been left out of the Market Day celebration, FIG organizer Carol-Ann Tucker said.

"It's a time for the community to come together and celebrate the land and the agriculture," she said. "This year, we're switching it around a little bit."

Women have worked the grading machines in and around Faison since the early 1950s and continue to do so today. The FIG chose this year's Market Day to honor the women who spent many hours sorting and grading cucumbers, peppers, beans and the other produce of local farms.

What they did was a major contribution to the agriculture industry and the town of Faison, Barbara Guy said. And while it was a tough job, some of the women who worked the graders loved it for the companionship. Ruth Darden worked for 34 years at Cates Pickle, and said she made many good friends there.

"Most of all, I enjoyed the people I worked with," she said. "Whatever it may be, we worked together."

And Mrs. Guy herself, who once worked as a grader, had many good memories of her time in agriculture.

"It was hard work but it was good work, and it did a lot of good for the town of Faison," Mrs. Guy said.

The graders present at the ceremony received a special certificate of appreciation from the FIG.

Mrs. Taylor gave a musical presentation and said the closing remarks.

"FIG is proud of what it's done for Faison, and we have a lot more to do," she said.