WHITE LAKE — Bladen County is gearing up for one of its largest annual gatherings — the White Lake Water Festival — and a new addition to the event this year.
In an effort to raise money for what organizers hope is a bigger-than-ever festival next year — the 40th annual event — the site will host this year, for the first time ever, a beer garden.
“A lot of festivals do this,” said Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dawn Maynard. “We found that the controlled sale of beer and wine at our concerts was very successful last year, and we’re hoping it will be a draw for people to come out and enjoy some good bands — we’ve got a great lineup this year — and just have a good time.”
She added, “We’ve never had any trouble at any of (the concerts).”
Individuals must be 21 years of age to purchase tickets, and no alcoholic beverages will be allowed beyond a certain point of the festival site.
“The White Lake Water Festival remains a family-friendly event designed to kick off the tourist season at White Lake,” reads a press release. “We look forward to this new addition to the festival and feel confident it will increase the number of spectators that come out to enjoy the music under the main tent.”
The two-day affair will begin Friday night with a street dance and free concert at Goldston’s Beach. The Kinston-based group Southern Touch will be performing its own mix of traditional country music with outlaw country and today’s country while adding the members’ own flair. They will be performing both cover songs and original music from 7-9 p.m.
Also taking place Friday night will be a Classic Car Cruise-in, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. The Best in Show award will be announced at 8 p.m.
Saturday’s events will kick off with the Water Festival Parade at 10 a.m. The 2017 grand marshal will be Mike Minter, Campbell University head football coach, who will also be available for a meet-and-greet under the main tent at Goldston’s at 1 p.m.
All day Saturday, live entertainment will be taking place at two locations. At the lake-front stage near Goldston’s Motel office, Inyafaithradio Gospel Music, the Gaddis Family, an Elvis Tribute with Matt Spaulding, Crissy Parker & Fayetteville Christian Praise Band, and the Gaddis Girls will be entertaining guests from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Under the main tent, and performing from 10:30 a.m. to5 p.m., will be three groups — Southern Touch Band, Carolina Breakers, and Silk Groove.
A semi-professional wrestling arena will showcase competitions at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.
At the U.S. 701 site will be plenty of vehicles for car enthusiasts. The Classic Car Show registration will take place from 8 a.m. until noon, when judging begins. Trophies will be awarded immediately following judging. The Lawn & Garden Tractor Pull will begin at 2 p.m. Admission for the tractor pull is $5.
Throughout the day, a variety of vendors will be on site. The White Lake Fire Department’s BBQ fundraiser, arts and crafts vendors, business booth displays, face painting, and a petting zoo are just a few of the offerings. Isabella the Clown will be making the rounds, and kids and adults like can hop on amusement rides.
A Saturday night dance at The Venue will feature DJ Brian Evans from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. Tickets are $10 per person.
“I’ve already looked at the weather, and I’m ecstatic about how things look,” said Maynard. “I’m just hoping some more popular bands during the day and the addition of the Beer Garden will grow the number of people who come out, which will have a domino effect on vendors.”
The White Lake Water Festival will take place Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.