MOUNT OLIVE -- The 31st annual North Carolina Pickle Festival will feature not only a new approach to the award-winning festival's Friday night activities, but a novel way to help visitors navigate Saturday's full day of events as well.
Sponsored by the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, the festival will be held Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, downtown.
There will be no Thursday kickoff event. Instead Friday night will get a major makeover.
Saturday the festival will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. when many of the festival favorites will be back including the classic car show, carnival rides, chili cookoff, the Hwy 55 Big A eating challenge, free entertainment spread across three stages and many different types of vendors offering food or other items for sale.
There will even be dill pickle-flavored peanuts, popcorn and beer.
The festivalwear will have a Medieval theme.
"Last year I spent a month in Europe and spent time in all of these Medieval villages," festival co-chair Julie Beck said Monday night during the festival committee's first meeting of the year. "So it is the Game of Gherkins, not the Game of Thrones. We have a cool design as usual."
Pickle Festival T-shirts have been ordered and should be arriving soon, Ms. Beck said. The colors this year are light blue, kiwi green, daisy yellow and red.
"Those color are particular because they match with the design, the colors in the design," Ms. Beck said. "Hopefully we will get those in soon. We have a whole new approach to Friday night. Traditionally it is our concert at the airport and carnival rides (downtown). Carnival rides will still be happening 5 to 9 p.m.
"When they brought in the medical helicopter at the airport that ended us having a concert there so (co-chairman) Lynn (Williams) and I and some other folks got together. We have decided we are doing a whole different plan on Friday night."
A free public concert will be held downtown probably from 6 to 10 p.m. on North Center Street in front of Ribeyes.
A local band, yet to be selected, will perform.
"We think that is going to be very different and unique," Ms. Beck said. "Ribeyes will have its beer garden open. Ribeyes will also have a little food stand out there. So it is going to be a very different approach than we have ever done before.
"We are hoping it will be different and encourage families to come down and hang out a little bit."
Vendors will check in as well Friday night so the concert area will not go past James Street, she said.
Also, the Cuke Patch 5 K has been moved form Saturday morning to Friday night and made a glow run.
The Tour de Pickle bicycle ride will remain on Saturday morning.
"It (Cuke Patch) is a downtown event," Mrs. Williams said. "The reason we did it is that the Cures for the Colors event has been scheduled against us for four or five years. It has killed our participation on Saturday morning."
Cuke Patch runners will receive battery-powered green light glow sticks similar to batons used in relay races.
The event will include a fun run for children.
The runs will start and end at the concert. A route still has to be mapped out.
The Pickle Festival walkabout app is something that Ms. Beck found, Mr. Williams said.
"The idea for that is if you are walking around the festival, you can land on this app, and it will tell you where you are, what's happening where at this particular time," Mrs. Williams said. "It is real-time festival information throughout the day of the festival.
"We can include our sponsors in this so our sponsors get recognition at the stages. It connects to their websites."
For example if it is noon and someone wants to know what bands are playing, it is not going to show bands that have already played, Ms. Beck said.
"It is going to show you the bands from 12 o'clock on with different stages," she said. "I am standing here, and I need to know where the restroom is. Boom there it is."
The Mascot Race will return.
"That actually turned out to be so cute," Mrs. Williams said. "We had 20 -- you'd be amazed at how many costumed characters there are within driving distance of Mount Olive. We had so many we had to break them up it up into different heats.
"We declared a winner and got this really tacky trophy, and the winner gets their name on the trophy. Of course we are going to have to come up with something different. The (University of Mount Olive) Trojan, who runs on his real legs, wins, so if we don't do something about that he is going to win every single year."
The best Mt. Olive Pickle Co. mascot Ollie Q. Cumber can do is hop, she said.
"He is not designed to run," Mrs. Williams said. "He (Trojan) is going to have to hop on one leg or something. But anyway that was a lot of fun, and we had a huge crowd."
The new citizens naturalization service will return as well.
"It is one of the most awesome things," Mrs. Williams said. "We do it in the courtroom at town hall. We have 30 generally."
The Immigration and Naturalization Service conducts the ceremony.
"It is just really awesome to see these folks and their families together and celebrate," Mrs. Williams said. "To be a part of that whole thing is really inspiring."
Vendor applications are being accepted for the festival's main day on Saturday, April 29. The deadline for applications is March 14.
"We did something a little bit different this year," Ms. Beck said. "Anybody who was a returning vendors in the last two to three years, we actually emailed them the vendor form and gave them first opportunity to get their application in by Jan. 1 before they went live for everyone else."
After March 14 a late application fee of $75 will be added for all vendors.
It also applies to Chamber members who receive one free vendor space as part of their membership benefits (although other fees may apply), but their space still needs to be reserved in advance.
Vendors are encouraged to submit their applications early, as vendors will receive notice within a few weeks of submitting completed applications as to whether they will be accepted into the festival.
This is different from previous years, when all vendors were notified of acceptance in early April.
For complete details and latest news, visit the website at www.ncpicklefest.org or visit the festival's Facebook page.