It's (almost) pickle time
By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 23, 2010 1:46 PM
Danny McLaurin, left, uses a brush this morning to wash down one of the rides that will be part of the entertainment tonight and Saturday at the North Carolina Pickle Festival in downtown Mount Olive. Chris Robbins, rear, uses a water hose to spray off the soap. Both men work for Brinkley Entertainment Co., which is providing the rides.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Julie Beck knows where the pickle is hidden, but she isn't talking.
The chairman of the committee that organized this weekend's 24th annual N.C. Pickle Festival is as cool as a cuke as she prepares not only for the annual hunt, but also for the festival that will draw thousands into the town.
The festival will kick off at noon today with the Rotary-Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce Cabin Fever Golf Tournament at the Southern Wayne Country Club.
A meal for the teams was held Thursday night along with a Deal, No Deal at which prizes, including a $3,000 shopping spree at Buddy's Jewelry, were offered.
The Band of Oz will perform at 8 p.m. at the Mount Olive Airport where the gates will open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and may be purchased at the chamber office on North Center Street and are $12 at the gate. A beer garden will be available for people 21 and older.
The Band of Oz concert is a popular event that traditionally attracts several hundred people. The Friday night carnival rides are popular, too.
Carnival rides will run from 5 to 9 p.m. at the corner of West Main and North Chestnut streets, with a $10 ticket purchasing unlimited rides. A full day of food, music and activities will run from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Saturday in the downtown area.
"Carnival rides should be setting up as we speak," Ms. Beck said. "(Thursday) at the chamber, the phones were ringing off the hooks -- all kinds of questions about the festival. People were buying shirts left and right. So it's happening. It is around the corner. It's a coming.
"I feel like we are ready. I can't think of anything else that I feel like we need to do. It is going to happen. It is going to happen. I am ready. Somebody called a while ago and said, 'are you stressing out?' I'm like, 'no, I haven't thought anything about it.' I guess we have done it so much it's just down to a science."
Ms. Beck just hopes that the rain in the forecast will hold off until late Saturday night.
"I can't do anything about that, so whatever happens with that, happens with that," she said. "I just feel like we have a great committee. We have done our planning and organizing. Now we just have to implement it."
Ms. Beck said the festival has signed up close to 120 vendors.
"We try to get around 100 so that means we have more than we normally have," she said. "We have enough food vendors so that nobody should go home hungry."
Vendors selling food, arts and crafts and other items will be located throughout downtown. They are expected to have their booths set up by 9 a.m. Saturday and the last entertainment of the day is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Many of the vendors will begin setting up late Friday afternoon, she said.
As for the hidden pickle, actually a toy, Ms. Beck said she is hopeful people will participate in the pickle treasure hunt -- this year to be held at the festival.
"We think it is kind of nice twist, coming out looking for the pickle," she said. "It is something different to kind of get people excited about looking at the festival and exploring all avenues of the festival. I think people will have fun doing that."
Asked where the pickle is hidden, Ms. Beck laughed and said, "Good luck with that."
In prior years, clues to the location of a jar of pickles were published in the newspaper. People followed the clues and the person who found the jar received prizes.
This year, people can pick up an informational sheet with clues leading to the secret location. The clues will be available Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pickle Festival Information Booth on North Center Street near the chamber office.
The winner will choose between a 2010 Pickle Festival T-shirt or hat and a Mt. Olive Pickle Pack. The winner must find and return the stuffed pickle toy to the information booth to claim the prize.
Also, new this year are camel rides.
"I am excited about the camel rides," Ms. Beck said. "We will actually have two camels. We kind of joked about camels then I found someone to come and bring camels."
She said she expects the day to be a busy one for organizers and guests.
"I start reeling off the list of all we are have coming and I am like, 'oh, my God, we have so much stuff coming.' Which is good. I think people who come to our festival know they are coming to a good event. You have people who have never come before who are excited about coming and you have other people who would not miss it to save their lives."
Ms. Beck hopes the crowd will be similar in size to last year's, which was estimated at 30,000. The town has a population of about 5,000.
"I know when you get there between about 11 o'clock and 2 you can't move down Center Street," she said. "It is wall-to-wall people. It is amazing to think that this community can bring that many people in town. It is a good problem to have."
The festival actually kicked off on April 7 with a drive-in theater set up in the parking lot at Kornegay Arena on the Mount Olive College campus.
"It was awesome," Ms. Beck said. "I really think it was a big success. I feel pretty sure we will do it again in the future. Even if we didn't do a drive-in, I think we would do something similar like that. It is a way to get people already in town excited about the festival."
Entertainment will be featured on three stages throughout the day. The dancers' stage is located at the corner of West College and North Center streets. The Christian music stage is located in the alleyway next to the Civic Center and the main stage featuring bands is located near Southern Bank on North Center Street.
There are actually three and one-half stages.
The half-stage is set up on Main Street at Center Street and will be the site of the Andy's Big A Challenge at 11:45 a.m. Saturday. The Big A Challenge is a competition in which contestants will see who can eat a 50-ounce hamburger, fries and drink -- all within 30 minutes.
"After that I have two acts that I have to put somewhere so I am going to put them on that stage," Ms. Beck said. "Only from like 11 or 3 is there something there. I overbooked the entertainment and I needed somewhere to put them."
Saturday's events will get under way early with the Cucumber Patch 5K run at 8 a.m. starting from the Kornegay Arena parking lot, followed by the Tour de Pickle bike ride at 9 a.m. at the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Distribution Center on the Old Mount Olive Highway just north of town.
Things then shift into high gear downtown.
The popular car and truck show will be held on North Center Street.
The Friends of Steele Memorial Library will have its annual book sale in the old Belk's building on West Main Street and tours will be offered at the museum on East Main Street and at the old Homes House on the corner of East James and North Center streets.
The carnival rides will operate all day and a children's area will be located across North Chestnut Street next to the Housing Authority. There will be plenty of activities, many of which revolve around pickles.
Parking will be available on surrounding streets and at Mount Olive College where free shuttles to and from the festival will be available. Several parking areas will also serve as fundraisers.
Parking will be $5 at the First Baptist Church and Mount Olive Presbyterian Church. The proceeds will go to the churches. Parking will cost $10 at Family Medicine Center with proceeds going toward the Kitty Askins Hospice Center fundraiser.