LUMBERTON — If anyone wandered into the back of Candy Sue’s restaurant on Saturday, they may have thought they had stepped out of a time machine.
For the night, the downtown eatery became a speakeasy, complete with a big band, couples doing the jitterbug — and a concoction called Giggle Water.
The Roaring on the River Gala signalled the end of the Great Getaway, a series of 1920s-themed events put on by the Robeson County Arts Council. Before the party, residents could check out vintage cars, tractors and a firetruck in the downtown plaza as well as an art show at the Osterneck Auditorium.
The Carolina Civic Center hosted the Second Time Around jazz band and screened a 1941 documentary about Lumberton. The Robeson County Humane Society held a Flapper Dapper Dog Parade and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke hosted lectures on the Art Deco period.
For UNCP Chancellor Kyle Carter and his wife, Sarah, the Getaway was a chance to show off the school’s resources — and have a little fun.
“That’s a favorite era of mine. In fact, if you went in and looked at the coffee table you’d see this big, big coffee table book that says ‘art deco’,” Sarah Carter said.
Carter said she was approached by Mary Ann Masters, president of the Robeson County Arts Council, with the idea of coordinating events centered around the Great Gatsby era.
“It was really serendipitous,” she said. “It’s amazing, I wish I had had more time to devote to a costume.”
The room, decorated with palm trees and a large picture of Marlon Brando, was full of feathers, fringe, fur, bow ties and pinstripe suits. About 120 party-goers danced The Charleston and The Bunny Hop and enjoyed music from the Band of Directors, made up of Robeson County music teachers.
Between songs, members of Lumberton’s Purple Door Productions acted out vignettes featuring flappers, mobsters and other era-appropriate characters. Linda Branch and Allan Campbell performed an encore of the routine that snagged the mirror ball trophy at Dancing with the Robeson County Stars.
Mark and Lisa Canada, who live in Laurinburg, took the dress code to heart.
“I tend to love the 1840s and she loves the 1940s, so we met in the middle,” said Mark Canada, who is the associate dean of UNCP’s College of Arts and Sciences. Applying an academic eye, Canada modelled his outfit for the evening after journalist H.L. Mencken, tucking a press pass in his fedora.
Lisa Canada, who works in the chancellor’s office, sourced materials for their outfits from the school’s costume department, thrift shops and her own closet.
In elbow-length gloves, a silver-metallic wrap and strands of beads, the “frustrated costumer” said the event was right up her alley.
“I’m really impressed by the size and the effort of how it was all coordinated,” she said.
Christy Bryant, Lee Grissom and Paula and Ron Roach took home bottles of Locklear Vineyard and Winery wines as winners of the evening’s costume contest.
Thomas Ard, who chaired the event along with fellow Arts Council members Joanne Branch and Kim Noble, said the night exceeded his expectations.
“The highlight was seeing the participation from the community … we never expected to see so many people in costume,” he said. Proceeds from ticket sales will go into the Art’s Councils budget for future events.
Masters described the gala as the Great Getaway’s crown jewel and said the event drew a larger crowd than she anticipated.
“We’ve had a fabulous turnout and everything has been fantastic,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better week of events.”
Now, the council has its sights set on the next big event.
“The turnout was so great we are already planning our event and that’s going to be a masquerade ball in the fall,” Ard said.