LAURINBURG – Visitors from around the state and around the corner took in the sights and sounds of the 34th annual John Blue Cotton Festival this weekend.
Chris Bernard of Fayetteville enjoyed browsing through 40-plus stalls full of vendors with handmade crafts from bowl cozies and quilts to wooden chairs and tables. Bernard was also impressed with and curious about the history behind the buildings and inventor John Blue.
Some of the sale items that caught Bernard’s attention were quilts made by Diane Russell, who usually volunteers as a docent for guided tours of the John Blue house around which the festival is centered.
“I’m usually a guide in the house, but today I set up my wares,” said Russell who uses her volunteer hours to work on her quilts. “I sit on the porch and just snip while I’m waiting to take people on tours. Quilting runs in my family my mother and sister both won blue ribbons on their quilts in the Old Timey Fair, and my sister won a grand prize for one of her baby quilts.”
This year’s competitors in the Old Timey Fair entered houseplants including Turkey Leaf Begonias, Spider Plants and a Christmas cactus. Montrose Mir entered her grocery bag holder/ dispenser and decorative Christmas napkin rings which both won blue ribbons. Other entries included paintings, photographs, candles, gourds, quilts and a hand-sewn 1930s style dress.
The entries were on display in the Shaw cabin for fairgoers to enjoy.
There was also plenty to see and hear on the main stage.
Visitors sat on log benches and lawn chairs to take in entertainment from groups like the Glamour Athletics gymnastics team, Triple Toe Cloggers and Jimmy Blue who has been performing at the festival since he was a teen. Blue entertained the crowd with beach music standards and oldies including a rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister.”
Heather Adcock comes to the event every year to watch the dancers and listen to the beach music.
“I like dancing and I like to shag,” Adcock said Saturday. “I’m just starting to learn though. I’ll come back tomorrow to see the Embers.”
Little visitors played among the displays of old fashioned games while some rode the ponies and trains and others took in the reptile exhibit. Still others were amazed by the historic displays and demonstrations of farm life in the early years of Scotland County set among the historic cabins and outbuildings like the corn crib and spring house.
Lora Chavis of Cheraw South Carolina brought her grandchildren Riely and Caleb Nolan who were fascinated as they watched Spinster Sherry Phillips spin cotton bolls into yarn.
“I like sewing, and I liked watching her make the yarn,” said Riley Nolan.
Phillips showed the children how to card or stretch the cotton bolls and how to get the spinning wheel started. She told the audience that one skein of yarn takes about 14 hours to make and that children would typically do the carding and preparation while the adults spun.
This is Phillips’ first time volunteering at the festival.
“This is my first year, but I’ve been spinning for eight years. If I’d known about it 20 years ago I’d have been spinning for 28,” Phillips said.
She learned to spin in Colorado after being intrigued by a demonstration similar to hers at a festival.
Chavis brought her son, the children’s father, to the festival in years past and thought it would be a great way to spend time with the grandchildren.
“We haven’t been since their father was young, but we decided to come because they were visiting,” Chavis said. “It’s grown since we were here before.”
Other children seemed more interested in the historical displays than they were in typical children’s activities.
Eight-year-old Haley Ratcliffe threw herself into the corn grinding demonstration as though she were actually grinding corn meal for her dinner.
“She’s been more interested in the historical stuff and buildings this time, than she was the train or horses,” said Ratcliffe’s mother. “She was curious about the wash basin and the fireplace in the cabin, she’s growing up on me.”
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169