04/01/12 — Daffodils still rule

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Daffodils still rule

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 1, 2012 1:50 AM

FREMONT -- To its organizers, the 2012 Daffodil Festival in downtown Fremont could be considered a soggy success as thousands crowded the town's main street, gathering beneath awnings in between dancing, shopping and eating.

But for two teenagers holed up in front of one vacant storefront, hidden from the spitting rain, the festival was a battlefield.

The two were both armed with bows and marshmallow guns from Ted Roberts' vendor booth on Sycamore Street and those gathered beneath umbrellas and nestled in rain jackets made perfect targets.

"It really doesn't matter, as long as we're together," said Thomas Cundiff, 13, of the rain as he and his friend, Ranza Thompson, 12, made their own fun in the undertones of the rainy event.

The two were in town visiting Ms. Thompson's family from Lumberton and Rowland down south, but the weather did little to deter them from attending -- a common theme within the festival as locals and visitors alike braved the off-and-on showers in ponchos and jackets to take in Fremont's signature downtown event.

April Jernigan, a Wayne County native, said she walked over from her home to the event, which she would never miss, with her two children, Sylvia, 4, and Liam, a 6-month-old.

Mrs. Jernigan said she recognized a lot of faces from the area, adding that it showed the town's resilience as well as its dedication to the festival.

Sylvia pulled at her grandmother's coat to leave the dry alcove her family had claimed as festival goers passed by beneath umbrellas.

"We'll walk in a minute," she was told. "After the rain dies down."

And die down it did just after 1 p.m., although much of the vendor sales were already down even as the sun dared to peek from behind the clouds.

Penny Cooley sat beneath a tent with Hattie James and Sara Knotts as they watched over the Fremont Friends of the Library booth where the drizzle had kept many bookworms at bay as Mrs. Cooley reported sluggish sales through midday.

She admitted that rain had kept her from attending in past years, but said there were still dedicated shoppers who ventured out to rifle through their books for sale to benefit the library. Another book sale is in the works, too, she said, so an underwhelming Daffodil Festival turnout wouldn't be too much of a damper.

For those who have seen every festival, though, it's understood that each year's success is a flip of the coin.

W.T. Smith, the owner of Capitol Cafe on Main Street, said he opened his business in 1985, the same year the festival first began. He has been at his current location for 21 years and said he has seen all of the festivals through both rain and shine.

"It's nothing like years past," he said, eyeing his cafe's front door. "Some years you can't even get in the door."

He has been keeping up with the weather so he was not surprised by the lack of a crowd, but said the festival, in any weather, was always a boom for business.

Rebecca and Kevin Lancaster had been at the festival since it began, as their 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, performed as part of the opening ceremonies.

Mrs. Lancaster said she was surprised at the crowd, and said while they were going to take a break from the festival, they would be back so Olivia could get her face painted.

Olivia did her part though, holding tightly to her butterfly umbrella to shield her father, who carried her, from the droplets.

"It's not so cold, at least," Mrs. Lancaster said.

Keeping dry inside the town hall lobby, Charlotte Aycock and Joanne McClave keep watch over the Fremont Garden Club's booth where daffodil specimens, literature and merchandise is spread out across the tables.

Mrs. Aycock is a festival veteran as well.

"Probably all of them," she said of how many of the festivals she has attended.

That experience has seasoned her for the ups and downs of the weather, as she said the alternating years of successful and rainy festivals reminded her of the festival's perennial namesake itself, as frost and rains affect the flowers each year making each spring a surprise.

By next year, however, you can bet the festival will be blooming again, no matter the weather.