WHITE LAKE — Summer has arrived … and lest, unofficially.
On Saturday under a blanket of clouds, the 39th annual White Lake Water Festival began its day long of activities with its usual parade of fire trucks, beauty queens, church groups, local businesses, elected officials and clowns.
Oh, and candy. Lots of candy.
As Mother Nature slowly peeled back the clouds to reveal soft blue skies, the parade ambled its way along the 6-mile path to the delight of the crowded curbs.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day than this for a parade,” said Jennifer Jenkins of Elizabethtown. “This is always such a nice kick-off to the Water Festival.”
Once the parade passed by the Goldston’s Beach area, the crowd began to filter into the vendors area, entertainment tent and beyond — all the way back to the carnival rides and the swimming piers.
But one newcomer on the list of vendors — R.A. Jeffries — was a popular spot for many who were looking to enjoy the beer garden. It was the first time the White Lake Water Festival was able to sell beer and wine, made possible by town voters in 2016 when they approved the ballot referendum.
“I like it,” said Bryan Bass of Cameron. It adds to the festival atmosphere.”
There was some agreement …
“I’m here because of two things — the wrestling and the beer,” said Judy Merchant of Fairmont, referring to the semi-pro wrestling taking place. “I’m glad they added it.”
… as well as some disagreement.
“I can do without it,” said Sammy Locklear of Lumberton. “But I’m sure it will be popular.”
Early in the day, visitors had numerous food and craft vendors to choose from.
With the afternoon temperatures soaring into the 90s, and little respite from the blazing sun, festival-goers were drawn to the lake, where children of all ages enjoyed the water throughout the day.
“This is the best place to be on a day like this,” said Maria Rodriguez of White Oak. “My children raced right past the rides and went to the water — and I’ll be having a hard time getting them out to eat lunch, they love it so much.”
White Lake will begin swelling with visitors starting Memorial Day Weekend, which starts Friday, marking the official start of the summer season.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.