LAURINBURG — The annual John Blue Cotton Festival was one of the several events scheduled to be held during “festival month” but, due to rain and the potential for more rain, the popular event has been canceled for the second time in three years.
Rain began hitting Scotland County on Wednesday and, with Hurricane Michael turning into a tropical storm in the following days, organizers for the event have decided not to hold the two-day festival.
“It’s very important to me that our patrons and everyone know that we are very disappointed by having to cancel the event,” said event chair and John Blue descendant Jim Blue. “I understand that the two days are supposed to be beautiful, but with the rain, we’re unable to set up for the festival and, if we get the two to three inches they’re expecting, it will turn the parking area to mud. We don’t want people getting stuck in the mud and having to walk through it to get to events.”
Blue has been helping with the festival for 33 of its 35 years and said, besides when Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, he can’t remember any other times when the festival was canceled for both days. Occasionally the Sunday events would be canceled due to rain, but it wasn’t typical both days were canceled.
“I love the John Blue Festival,” Blue said. “It very much impacts not just the people Laurinburg and Scotland County, but those in surrounding areas as well who come out and experience it. It just hurts me to know that we won’t be able to offer it … our board and volunteers have worked year-round to put it on.”
Festival organizers had hoped that this year’s festival would bring in 10,000 people — last year’s topped 8,000 — to explore the grounds including the house, cabin and cotton gin as well as enjoy around 70 vendors selling items such as crafts and food.
Entertainment was supposed to include Glamour Athletics, as well as Crystal McInnis School of Dance and the Karen Gibson School of Dance — along with plenty of bands and the Hartsville Bubble Man.
Next year will be the first year the festival will no longer be two days long, going to a Saturday only event because of church activities and the challenge of getting volunteers to work the day.
Blue hopes to get more volunteers out as many of the board and volunteers are aging out, similar to the Scotland County Highland Games.
“You have to have an interest and want to participate,” Blue said. “I do it because I have an interest and it’s good for the community.”
Despite moving the festival to a single day, Blue hopes people will continue to come and that the festival will continue to grow. He said all of the activities and entertainment will remain.
“We hope our patrons will continue to come and support us next year,” Blue said. “You don’t really find festivals like ours in this area or even much in the state.”
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171 or at [email protected]