Pickles take center stage at festival
By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 24, 2011 1:50 AM
This is the 25th year that Mount Olive has hosted the North Carolina Pickle Festival. Organizers are expecting as many as 30,000 people to attend the event.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Residents are preparing for what could be a six-fold increase in the town's population this Saturday as the town pays homage to all things pickle during the 25th annual North Carolina Pickle Festival.
Sponsored by the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, the festival is expected to attract a crowd of 30,000 or more people.
Saturday is the main festival day when downtown will be packed with three stages of entertainment, foods, arts and crafts, animal rides, clowns, games, carnival rides, a classic car show that will line both sides of North Center Street and an eating contest.
People who want to be sure to complete a grand tour of the festival should stop by the chamber information booth to pick up clues in the Pickle Festival Treasure Hunt. Following the clues to find the hidden jar of Mt. Olive pickles will take searchers on a tour of the festival.
And for those who want to relish the experience even after it is over, the chamber will be selling festival apparel at the booth.
However, pickle lovers do not have to wait until then for a taste of the award-winning festival.
A little Pickle Festival magic Tuesday night will transform the parking lot at Mount Olive College's Kornegay Arena into a drive-in theater at 8 p.m.
Because of copyright restrictions, the name of the film cannot be advertised. However, it is a recent movie about a famous racehorse.
Admission will be $6 in advance and $8 at the gate. Wristbands for the movie are being sold at the Mount Olive Andy's Burgers Shakes and Fries and chamber office.
Andy's will be selling concessions and will donate 25 percent of any money it raises that night to the Pickle Festival.
The popular beach music group, the Band of Oz, will headline activities Friday night at the Mount Olive Airport located off the Old Mount Olive Highway just north of town.
The airport gates will open at 7 p.m. and the concert will get under way at 8 p.m. and end at 11:30.
Admission will be $15 per person for ages 13 and up and $5 for ages 5-12. Children 5 and younger will be admitted free.
New this year will be a "cornhole tournament." The cost will be $5 per person or $10 per team.
"They can just sign up that night when they get there," Pickle Festival chairman Julie Beck said.
The Mount Olive Jaycees will again operate a beer garden and the Country Squire restaurant in Kenansville will sell wine and offer wine tastings. Food will be sold by the Friendly Mart.
It will be active downtown and children will be able to enjoy carnival rides and make their own stuffed animals.
Tri-County Electric Mem-bership Corp. employees will be selling hot dogs, pizza, chips, drinks and baked goods on Friday night from 5 to 9 p.m. across from the carnival rides.
Proceeds will benefit the Tri-County employee-funded scholarship program. The company is sponsoring the rides and children's area downtown.
Brinkley Entertainment from Walnut Cove is furnishing the rides that will be located in the parking lot at the corner of North Chestnut and West Main streets.
Friday night, between 5 and 9 p.m. people can pay $10 and ride all that they want. Individual tickets on Saturday will be $1 each or 14 for $12 or 30 for $20. Each ride requires three to five tickets.
The ride area also will feature inflatables, water gun game, a bell-ringing game and a trailer full of cotton candy and other carnival-type food.
ATMs will be located near the carnival rides and in front of the chamber office.
Two new features will be featured downtown Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. near the children's carnival rides -- Pack-A-Pickle Pal and micro-reality cars.
On Saturday, the Pack-A-Pickle Pal will be in front of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce office on the west side of the 100 block of North Center Street, and the micro-reality cars will be near Patterson Furniture store on the east side of 100 block of South Center Street.
Pack-A-Pickle Pal is similar to Build-A-Bear. It costs $20 to stuff an animal, which includes a T-shirt with a Pickle Festival logo printed on it.
The three entertainment stages will feature a variety of gospel, rock 'n' roll and a youth group.
A dancers' stage will be located at the corner of North Center and West College streets and the band stage will be located next to Southern Bank on the east side of the 100 block of North Center Street.
"Mainly, it is bands playing one- and two-hour segments on the main (Southern Bank) stage," Ms. Beck said. "At the Christian stage near the end, we have a little bit of other things that are mixed in that are not exactly Christian music, but it is not rock or rap.
"The same thing with the dancers' stage. We filled in with a few things differently down there as well. I know we have some bluegrass down there. So what we tried to do is have a dance troupe, a band, a dance troupe, a band. That keeps a continuous crowd there going all of the time."
The alleyway behind the Chamber office won't have as many vendors this year, but will boast more activities, most of which are geared toward children.
The camel and pony rides will be near the pig and duck races and the petting zoo, which was moved from the children's area because a new gazebo has been built there.
"All of our animals will be in our Animal Adventure Land," she said. "Also behind the chamber will be Water Wars and the mechanical bull. It will be a pretty busy, happening alleyway.
"This alleyway is like a whole new life this year. Right at the end of the depot will be the rock wall and bungee jump. That is the one that goes up and down. Next to that will be the Pickle Plaster Plunge and cornhole."
The Pickle Plaster Plunge is a two- or three-foot deep frame filled with cornstarch and water, which forms a gel. People can run across it without sinking, but if they stop, they sink. The cost will be $1 and that money will go to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
Another first is a caricaturist who will be in the alleyway, too. The cost will be $10 a sketch for one person, $12 for two people and $15 for three or more.
The main children's area will be located across Chestnut Street on the lawn area of the Mount Olive Housing Authority office and will operate Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
A $3 wristband will allow children to come and go in the area and play a variety of games.
Ronald McDonald and other costumed McDonald's characters will be in the children's area from noon to 2 p.m. and Ronald McDonald will put on 45-minute performances.
Other mascots such as Andy's Andyman, Mt. Olive Pickle Co.'s Ollie Q. Cumber, Piggly Wiggly's Mr. Pig, Butterball's Butterball and Mount Olive College's Trojan are expected in the children's area from noon to 2 p.m. as well. There will be a meet-and-greet session and people can get their pictures taken with the characters.
Andy's Burgers Shakes and Fries' Big A Challenge will pit five professional eaters and one amateur against the clock and a massive 50-ounce Andy's Big A cheeseburger.
The competition will be held on a stage at the corner of South Center and East Main streets.
"We are telling folks 11:30 a.m., just in case we start around that time," said Adam Wiggins, marketing director for Andy's. "It looks like it is going to be 12. We have not been given anything official yet. We will have some pre-event things going on. We will throw some T-shirts out and give away some gift certificates to keep people pumped up and get the mood set."
A television will be set up to show past competitions and highlights of the new professionals coming in to compete. Andy's CEO Kenney Moore will be the master of ceremonies and there will be three judges to time the eaters.
The festival weekend will close out Sunday with worship service at 6 p.m. at Mount Olive First Pente-costal Holiness Church.