ELIZABETHTOWN — A summertime tradition by an organization that dates back more than 100 years unfolded Friday at the Powell-Melvin Agricultural Center in Elizabethtown with the annual Christmas in July scholarship fundraiser for the Bladen County Extension and Community Association.
More than 20 vendors hawking a wide variety of crafts, wares and goods were on hand — including a White Oak woman known as “The Gourd Lady.”
Pat Smith, 72, has been coming to the Christmas in July event since it first began 12 years ago. But her start with painting gourds began years earlier.
“I was out of work in 1996 and a friend brought me a gourd and asked me to paint it,” she explained. “I’d never done it, but she convinced me and I’ve been painting gourds ever since.”
Smith added that she’s not there just to make money.
“I like to support the Extension Office, and I enjoy seeing and talking to the people who come by,” she said.
The fundraiser, according to Cooperative Extension Director Sandra Cain, raises money for two $500 scholarships given each year to local high-school seniors. She also said the Bladen County Extension and Community Association has a long history.
“It started 103 years ago as the Home Demonstration Club,” she said. “It’s evolved into the Extension and Community Association, and I think people really look forward to this event.”
And again, it’s not all about making money — though the event does raise between $1,200 and $2,500 every year.
“I will echo something one of our vendors said to me … ‘if we don’t make but $1, we’ve had a lot of fun, fellowship and love,’” said Linda Rivenbark, one of the event organizers. “And I agree with that.
“But I also think what we do here is important for the community,” she added. “People come every year from all over the region.”
That may be because they know they will find a good variety of quality, homemade items like jewelry, crochet, quilts, artwork, baked goods, crafts, decorative bows, re-purposed wine bottles and mason jars, clothing and much more.
The highlight of the event might also be the salad plate lunch offered for just $5. Those who stayed for lunch were treated to four fresh salads — chicken, wonton, veggie and fruit — along with breadsticks and sweet tea.
“We make a lot of salad,” Rivenbark said. “People really enjoy the lunch.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.