MOUNT OLIVE — Pickle-flavored soft drinks.
Pickle-flavored cotton candy.
Regardless of a person’s taste in pickles, it probably can be found at this weekend’s 33rd annual North Carolina Pickle Festival.
The festival kicks off with a two-band concert, carnival rides and glow run Friday night in downtown Mount Olive before kicking into high gear with a full day of events from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
The award-winning festival, sponsored by the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, attracts tens of thousands of festival-goers annually.
The festival is being held two weeks earlier than normal to accommodate the Wings Over Wayne Air Show at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on April 27-28 — the normal weekend when the festival would take place.
Last summer, after several meetings between Pickle Festival and Wings Over Wayne planners, it was decided that the festival would hold its event two weeks earlier.
The crowd for Friday’s opening events is smaller, but continues to grow as does the schedule of events.
However, the night also is going to be a little bit different than in previous years, said Julie Beck, festival co-chairman.
“We are still having a concert downtown, although this year we are actually having two bands,” she said. “The carnival rides will be from 5 to 9 as normal.”
The Feral Cats, a blues dance band, will perform from 6 to 8 p.m., and Steel County Express, a modern country and rock party band from Richlands, from 8 to 10 p.m. on the stage near Ribeyes on North Center Street.
The 5K Cuke Patch glow run will start at 8 p.m., also on North Center Street.
The carnival rides will be located in the Steele Memorial Library parking lot at the corner of West Main and North Chestnut streets. The rides also will operate on Saturday.
The pay-one-price carnival rides will run from 5-9 p.m. Friday when festival-goers can ride all they want for $12. Concessions will be available at the rides.
The opening ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. on the Center Street main stage near Southern Bank.
It is one of three stages that will feature free entertainment throughout the day. The praise stage will be located on South Center Street and the dance stage on the corner of West College and North Center streets.
Four bands will peform on the main stage: Eaglewing, an Eagles tribute band, at 9:10 a.m.; British Invaders, a Beatles tribute band, at 11:25 a.m.; Rivermist, a variety band, at 1:40 p.m.; and the Ultimate Rock Machine at 4 p.m.
Entertainment will start at 10 a.m. on the praise stage and at 9 a.m. on the dancers stage.
Entertainment will not be limited to the stages. Jingles the Clown will perform as will Glen Yost, a roaming magician, and local celebrity Freddie Pierce, who will be performing magic and ventriloquism.
Making a return appearance after not being at the festival for several years will be the Keith King BMX team that will perform bicycle tricks on South Center Street.
Camel and pony rides will be available, as well as a petting zoo.
Downtown streets will be lined with vendors offering up a smorgasbord of foods, arts and crafts and other offerings. Both sides of the northern end of North Center Street will be lined with colorful vintage and new vehicles in the Wayne County Cruisers Car Show.
Antique tractors also will be on display.
Along with traditional festival-type foods, festival-goers can try a variety of pickle-favored foods.
New this year will be dill pickle-flavored cotton candy and pickle-flavored soda — a combination of soda and pickle juice.
Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop in Ohio and his pickle-flavored item is a featured pickle vendor.
“He is going to bring a variety of things that will be all things pickley,” Beck said. “That will include pickle cotton candy, pickle soda, pickle socks, pickle mints, pickle candy canes, pickle ornaments, pickle freeze pops, pickle lollipops, pickle Pringles.”
The company will join all of the other pickle-related items listed on the festival’s Pickle Trail, a map showing the location of such pickle-flavored treats.
“I am sure when people come to town they will not be able to say they were unable to try all kinds of pickley things because this is in addition to our pickle Snow Cones and our pickle ice cream, whatever else we may have, deep-fried pickles and whatnot,” Beck said.
Of course, there will be free pickles as well at the Mt. Olive Pickle Plaza near the corner of North Center and West James streets.
In that same area, festival-goers can take the pickle-packing challenge, visit with Mt. Olive Pickle Co. mascot Ollie Q. Cucumber and shop for items from the company store.
Attendees also can shop for locally created art at the Artisan Village in the Southern Bank parking lot at the corner of East Main and South Center streets.
Located next to the Mt. Olive Pickle Plaza will be the festival information both and festival headquarters where official festival ware — T-shirts, caps, visors and other memorabilia — can be purchased.
Speaking of pickle eating, 14 contestants will gather at noon on North Center Street for bragging rights in the pickle-eating competition. The winner will be whomever can eat the most Mt. Olive kosher dill pickles in five minutes
If any of the 14 fail to show up, contestants will be selected from among the spectators. Contestants have to be at least 18 years of age.
At 2 p.m. in that same area, mascots from local companies will compete in the popular mascot race.
For more information, visit www.ncpicklefest.org.