For hundreds, annual fest a family tradition

Abbi Overfelt Editor

October 14, 2013

LAURINBURG — Though a bit of “liquid sunshine” dampened folks at Sunday morning’s church service, the number of people that had already poured through the gates of the 30th annual John Blue Cotton Festival was more than enough to make Jim Blue happy.

“We had a big crowd Saturday, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves very much,” said the chair of the festival’s Board of Directors. “Everything went great, and we’re looking forward to planning for the 31st annual.”

With music, crafts, food, demonstrations, animals and rides in a train car or in a barrel, the only thing hard to find at the festival was someone who wasn’t marking their fifth, 10th or even 15th year of attendance.

“We come every year,” said Melissa Creed, who watched as her kids Andrew and Hayley and family friend Gracen Boyd played in the children’s area. “They like the train ride, the games, and the funnel cakes.”

It was Rick and Pam Best’s 13th year at the celebration, and the 10th for their son, who has been going since he was in a stroller. Ethan this year got to experience having a 150-pound snake draped around his neck as Rick and Pam took photos of his first worried, then happy, face.

Kathy Masse, of Laurinburg, made a point at this year’s festival — the 12th time she had attended — to visit booths on beekeeping, which she is considering turning into a career; but there things she wouldn’t miss no matter how loud the buzz became.

“I love the beach music,” she said. “And seeing the old tractors, being able to take in all of the old fashioned things, the way it used to be.”

Vendors, too, have marked several years at the festival, with Wayne Owen of Shirley’s Goodies, Laurie Underwood of CK Concessions and Shirley and Jack Ward all saying the event is well-organized and family friendly.

But others, like 3-year-old Christian Wittington, were experiencing all the excitement for the first time.

“I was excited to bring him this year,” said his mom, Terry. “I was looking forward to the tractor pull, and he did the haystack diving, we did the children’s games.”

Zach Thomas, 13, also marked his first year at the festival, and was made an apprentice by Tom Tucker, a self-proclaimed “wood smith.”

“I told him we were going to do something different this weekend,” said grandma MJ Martin, of Cheraw, as she recorded Zach turn a large wheel that powered a wood chisel. “Now I can definitely say I was right.”