A peck of pickle fun
By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on April 28, 2013 1:50 AM
Miss Goldsboro 2013 Beth Stovall samples a Mt. Olive Pickle Co. pickle during the 27th annual North Carolina Pickle Festival in Mount Olive on Saturday. Organizers said the warm, sunny weather and several new additions combined to draw near-record crowds downtown.
MOUNT OLIVE -- In the center of Mount Olive beside a cage of hungry brown-haired goats, 4-year-old Kylee Whaley laughs as a clumsy goat thrusts its head through the fence boards and nibbles the food cupped in her tiny hand.
"That one bumped his head," she laughs. But the goats can't hold her attention for too long. There's another petting zoo not far away, and that much superior petting zoo has a camel -- one that you can ride.
Her mother, Jennifer Whaley, of Princeton, follows her daughter. It's only just after noon at the 27th N.C. Pickle Festival in Mount Olive, but there's so much left to do.
"Kylee is like 'I wanna do this and this and I want some lemonade and I want some pickles,'" Mrs. Whaley said, laughing.
So she shifts her second daughter, 10-month-old Olivia, on her hip and follows Kylee out of the children's area, back into the crowd of thousands to find more family fun, and hopefully, some more interesting goats.
If you missed the pickle festival this Saturday, take this scene of a happy family, multiply it by a thousand, add a car show, some live music and carnival food, and then throw in a dash of pickles. Your final result will be the 27th annual N.C. Pickle Festival.
The pickle festival draws tens of thousands of people into downtown Mount Olive every year, and this year was no exception. A few special events and the sunny weather definitely helped in that regard, said festival Chairwoman Julie Beck.
"We could not have asked for better weather, of course, I'm getting a nice little sunburn on my face, but it's not too hot. And I mean I think that's the big part of why we had so many people today. Obviously, we have a great festival, but the weather makes a big difference," Ms Beck said. "Man, we've had a huge crowd. People are very happy.
"I just talked to some people from Mount Olive, and they've said that the cars they've seen are from out of state. And the many people they've been surveying said it was their first time coming and they just loved it."
Beck herself was giving a tour of the festival to a newcomer.
"It's the first time I heard about it so I thought I'd check it out. It's ... wow -- bigger and a lot more elaborate and very organized and very enjoyable. There's a lot of camaraderie and people from all over, not just from North Carolina but from South Carolina. It just looks like a nice community event," said Lori Blaney of New Bern.
She had heard about the event from Ms. Beck through email over the winter and she marked it on her calendar. After seeing what was available, she now plans to come back next year.
"There's something for everybody -- for the kids, for the adults, for everybody," she said.
Beside the weather, a few new events also helped bring in close to record crowds.
New this year to the pickle festival was the new "Pickle Pete Scuppernong," a sweet, white summer wine. The Thursday before the main day of the festival, April 25, organizers held a wine tasting at Ribeyes Steakhouse in downtown Mount Olive for the first taste of "Pickle Pete. Tyler Barwick Graham, president of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, said the "Pickle Party on the Patio" was a success.
About 45 to 50 people attended the event, and many people who got a taste thought the local wine made at Hinnant Family Vineyards was great, Mrs. Barwick Graham said.
"I was so impressed with that wine," said Ms. Beck. "It was supposed to be a one-and-done, and I've talked to the vineyard about making it for me again because it was so good. Everyone who came enjoyed it and liked our event and liked the wine. I think we'll have to continue that tradition."
The wine is still available at Ribeyes Steakhouse for $15 a bottle.
Another special event to this year's festival was an appearance by "Big Juicy" from the Lizard Lick Towing show on TruTV. "Big Juicy" had T-shirts at her booth, and she signed autographs.
The reality TV celebrity was impressed with Mount Olive, its sense of community and its pickles. A few festival attendees had even gifted her some fried pickles early in the day.
"I love the love the town is showing me," she said.
She also explained the source of her moniker -- "Big Juicy" -- which replaces her real name when she is mentioned in the media (Her first name is Diane).
"Oh, it came from back in junior high. I always had "Big Juicy." It was actually a guy who thought he was going to hurt my feelings, and said, 'No one is talking to your big juicy ***. And I said, 'I do have a big juicy ***, don't I?' And I work that ... Not everyone is meant to be skinny, I just want you to be healthy. I love the name, and it stuck with me," she said.
Beside the new events, a few staples also returned to the festival. Entertainment consisted of mostly classic country and rock. More than 100 vendors sold food and fundraising raffle tickets lined the streets, and on the northern half of Center Street, the Wayne County Cruisers held its 22nd annual car show at the N.C. Pickle Festival.
Headed by Mac Willis, president of the Wayne County Cruisers, the car show had more than 160 cars, from the earliest refurbished Model Ts that still require a hand crank, to just-out-of-the-showroom sports cars.
Clarence Moore, 71, a car enthusiast, brought a few of his own pieces of work down to the car show to be judged. From Goldsboro, Moore has participated in every car show at the pickle festival that the Wayne County Cruisers have had.
"It's a hobby," he said. "And you can't just keep track of (the hours spent), and money-wise, you don't always keep track of all the receipts."
"The pleasure of owning it, looking at it, driving it, and the pleasure of other people looking at it outweighs anything else," Moore said.
Moore has a few cars that he likes to bring to festivals, but he brought just two on Saturday -- a Chevy Monte Carlo and a '63 Chevy Impala Super Sport.
"I've been messing with them for more years than I can remember," Moore said.
All in all, festival organizers were happy with the results of the months of planning and the effort that drew so many people to the "Pickle Capital of the South."
"We had good crowds all day. I think we did have a record crowd. I think we did have more people than last year," said festival co-chair Lynn Williams.
"It was a fabulous day. The weather was perfect. It was a good day."