FAIRMONT — The 27th annual Fairmont Farmers Festival was a success Saturday, according to festival officials, even though early arrivals were greeted with gray skies and a light rain.
“Thank goodness the rain stopped, ” Charles Kemp, Fairmont’s mayor, said as the more than hour-long festival parade through the heart of downtown Fairmont came to a close. “This is still going to be a great day and event for everyone. There’s no heat or sun to bother those who are here.”
According to Kemp, last year’s festival drew a crowd of between 7,000 and 8,000 people. Kemp said this year’s festival, because of the morning early light rain, would like finish the day with a crowd of between 5,000 and 6,000.
The day’s festivities began with an opening ceremony that included remarks from Kemp, Miss North Carolina 2013 Johna Edmonds, and Charla Tedder Parker, who this year was named the nation’s top physical education teacher by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Jasmine Blue, a Fairmont resident, performed the national anthem.
Parker, who graduated from Fairmont High School in 1977 and teaches at Fuquay-Varina High School, served as this year’s festival parade grand marshal.
“This (festival) is wonderful,” she said. “I grew up in this town and and I have a lot of family here. It’s always great to get home and see family and friends.”
During her brief remarks before the start of the parade, Parker told the crowd that no one should ever believe that just because they may come from a small town and small school that they can’t do whatever they want in life.
“I used to be told that I couldn’t play my entire life, but I’m in my 31st year of teaching physical education and I love it … I love what I do and I’ve never had to work a day in my life.”
The parade featured several bands, drill teams, pageant queens and Shriner’s units. A variety of tractors also made their way down Main Street past the crowd of parade watchers lining both sides of the street.
Clearance Williamson, a former Fairmont resident now living in Charlotte, was one of those out bright and early to make sure that he found a good spot to watch the parade.
“I enjoy the parade and festival and come here every year,” Williamson said. “It’s a great time to get together with some of the people I have not seen for awhile.”
As the parade drew to a close, the crowd scattered, many folks heading to the area between Center and Cross streets to view the wide variety of arts and crafts and concessions that were on sale. Others went to sample the many kinds of foods that were offered, while still others made their way to the community park where activities for children were being held.
The festival had activities to catch the interest of everyone. Two of the favorites were horseshoe and cornhole tournaments. Teams paid $20 to participate and proceeds went to benefit Fairmont Civilian Dixie Youth Baseball.
At the community park, children were treated to shows by Puppet Love. The shows were “Say No to Drugs” and “Stay in School.”
Children were also entertained by Dora the Explorer. There was also a dunking booth sponsored by South Robeson Rescue. Other performers at the park included festival chair Jane Powell and Stephen Love, a Fairmont resident who won the My Time to Shine talent competition in Lumberton in August.
The festival ended with a dance at the People’s Warehouse on Industrial Drive. Music for the event was provided by The Fantastic Shakers.
The Fairmont Farmers Festival, according to Kemp recognizes and honors Fairmont’s past history as one of the region’s largest tobacco markets.
“Since the 1950s, when it began, the festival has had a series of starts and restarts, ” he said. “But it is the heart of the community and there are so many people who work hard to make it happen every year.”
Festival officials said they are already planning for the next festival.
“Fairmont is where heritage and hospitality meet,” Kemp said.