LAURINBURG — Despite a rainy start, the John Blue Festival brought thousands together this past weekend in a celebration of yesteryear.
The 32nd Annual John Blue Cotton Festival attracted people from across Scotland County and beyond to observe the traditions of a cotton farm created in 1891. The event incorporates old farm tractors and tools, cotton harvesting machines, antique cabins and an old-fashioned way of life for modern folk.
Despite an untimely downpour for the first day of the two-day festival, there were thousands of smiling faces on Sunday.
“The festival was kind of damp Saturday,” said Jim Blue, festival chairman, noting the lackluster turnout due to the rain. “Sunday is great. We have sunshine, people are happy eating their collard sandwiches, dancing, drinking their lemonade, eating funnel cakes, buying things from the vendors, and riding the train and ponies.
“Everybody is happy, including myself. I’ve been with the festival for 27 years and I could only hope it will go on for another 32, hopefully without the rain.”
The event also showcased more than 30 vendors selling merchandise and food. Everything from homemade crafts and wooden sculptures to pottery, quilts and wreaths were available under a gathering of tents. There was also an abundance of food vendors serving anything from pizza to none other than the famous collard sandwiches.
“Of course we have collard sandwiches, that’s what the John Blue Festival is known for,” said Tish Patterson, vendor chairperson and treasurer of the festival board. “We also had North Carolina Cash out here to check if the state owes you money.”
There was also live entertainment and old-time games for children. The Embers, a group out known for beach music, played during Sunday’s sunny event. They got the crowd going by playing everything from Marvin Gaye to Pharrell, ensuring everyone in the audience had a good time.
“There aren’t a lot of places you can go to hear The Embers play for $5,” Patterson said.
For the children, there were Old Timey Games where they could walk on tin-cans or stilts, jump rope, play checkers or just jump from hay bale to hay bale.
“There are all kinds of family friendly games” said Clyde Marsh. “It was created by a school teacher to introduce children to what they were doing in the early part of the century,”
The games have been around ever since the first John Blue Festival and residents partake in the activities year after year, generation after generation.
“We have been coming here since I was a little girl and now I bring my daughter,” said Crystal Giddens, Laurinburg resident. “We look forward to coming every year, it’s nice to have something to do in Scotland County.”
Other residents enjoy coming out in remembrance of the historic landmark.
“I’m a lifelong resident here and this is a great event that the county puts on,” said Johnny Quick. “It’s about our Scotland County heritage and where we came from.”
Quick enjoys coming year after year for the collard rolls and smiling faces.
“It takes a lot of teamwork from a lot of different people to put it on,” he said. “There are more and more food vendors and children coming out here every year and you just see everyone walking around smiling.”