10/29/17 — Celebrating 150 years of the National Grange

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Celebrating 150 years of the National Grange

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 29, 2017 1:45 AM

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Jimmy Gentry, right, N.C. State Grange president, speaks Saturday morning during the opening ceremony for the Grantham Grange's celebration of the 150th anniversary of the National Grange. Seated next to him is John Crawford, president of the Grantham Grange. The daylong event was held at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

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MacKenzie Vann, foreground, munches on a cookie as she and her brother Dylan ride the barrel train Saturday during the 150th anniversary celebration for the national Grange.

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Faye McCullen, right, sets up her hoop cheese display at the 150th anniversary celebration of the National Grange sponsored by the Grantham Grange.

DUDLEY -- "She was good," MacKenzie Vann, 10, said of her sister, Kasey's, performance of the national anthem.

But so was the chocolate chip cookie that MacKenzie ate as she rode the barrel train around the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

MacKenzie said she was ready for a hot dog and French fries.

And she said she was having fun at the Grantham Grange's celebration of the National Grange's 150th birthday. Kasey, 16, is the state Grange talent winner.

The daylong celebration was held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the fairgrounds on U.S. 117 South.

Activities included entertainment, a corn hole tournament, farm equipment display, auction, art display, a chili cookoff, a mule drill team, motorcycle exhibit, antique cars and tractors, FFA and 4-H exhibits and a beekeepers exhibit.

Children's events included a tractor pull and barrel train rides.

A number of vendors were set up selling a variety of foods and arts and crafts. The Grantham Fire Department sold concessions out of its fair booth.

Boy Scout Troops 10 and 59 from Grantham presented the colors during the opening ceremony.

The National Grange, a fraternal organization for farm families, was founded in 1867.

It has expanded in recent years to provide more community events.

Jimmy Gentry, N.C. State Grange president, joked that he felt good to see a preacher present to pray and that if any mean people showed up that Sheriff Larry Pierce was there to take care of them. He said if a doctor was present that he would feel even better.

"But what I really feel good about is seeing a community come together for a day like today and a good Grange putting together an event like this today to offer to the community because that is what we are about," he said. "We are about community.

"Yes, we are about agriculture. Yes, we are about rural America and rural North Carolina. You do not have to be a farmer to be a member of this organization. Those of you who are not members today, we want you."

The Grange advocates for agriculture and rural needs, Gentry said.

It has established a good relationship with local state legislators, he said.

"I want you to think back a little bit to 1867," Gentry said. "I know none of us were here then. (Rep.) Jimmy (Dixon), you won't here then in 1867 were you? How things must have been then compared to today. There were needs in 1867, but there are also needs today that are just as great.

"Our organization, the challenge that we have, is to adapt to those changing needs that have happened over the past 150 years. Grantham Grange is all about that."

Larry Sasser, of the Nahunta community, was at the event with his two grandsons, Jasper Boothman, 5, and Preston Boothman, 7.

"They help me out a little bit on the farm," Sasser said.

It was very important to bring his grandsons to the celebration, he said.

"They can learn a little bit about the past, farmers and all, the equipment and the old tractors there," Sasser said. "I want them to know a little about the background, too. I liked looking at the tractors and going through the building here to look at the demonstrations."

His grandsons were interested in the 4-H booth that had an old-fashioned corn sheller that they were able to try out.

"It was interesting to see," he said. "It brought back a lot of memories."

Sasser recalls when Nahunta had a Grange even though he was not part of it. The building is still standing.

"I grew up on a farm," he said. "That is the reason that I came because I knew one of the ideas of the Grange was to support the farmers. I just wanted to come out and see what was going on.

"I still have dirt under my fingernails right on. I still have a farm right on. I grew up on that farm. We raised tobacco. I saw the old tobacco sprayer over there. I do remember that and that was way back. It brought back a lot of memories."