MAXTON — Amanda Locklear and her family come to the Maxton Collard Festival each year with one mission in mind: chow down on a collard sandwich from Momma’s Collards.
This year was no different.
“They just know how to cook some collards,” she said, encircled by family members also holding tin foil packets with the stewed greens and disks of fried cornbread tucked inside.
Amanda, Sharlene, Katrina and Tyran Locklear were not alone in the line for Momma’s Collards at the 10th annual Maxton Collard Festival on Saturday.
Emma Locklear, who was serving up sandwiches at the stand, said she and her family arrived at Beacham Park to start cooking the home-grown greens at about 6:30 that morning.
“This is my momma’s and she raised me to cook them,” she said.
Emma Locklear has been cooking collards at the festival since its inception.
“I had an outfit of collards and all,” she said.
Momma’s Collards also make appearances at the town Fourth of July celebration, the Lumbee Homecoming and the Tusacarora Nation powwow. But they come back to the Collard Festival each year for the crowd.
“I enjoy the people,” Emma Locklear said.
The festival was a flurry of smells, sights and sounds.
Armies of sandwich makers formed assembly lines in booths surrounding the perimeter of the park, each with a hissing fryer ready to cook up the golden cornbread. Many of the booths were set up by churches and civic groups, which benefited from the sales.
In addition to the crowd favorite of collard sandwiches, purveyors also sold fish sandwiches, collard wraps, collard egg rolls, french fries, chow chow, funnel cake and more.
Children enjoyed inflatable slides and carriage rides and festival-goers of all ages danced to music in the center of the park. The traditional contests for largest, healthiest and tastiest collards were held while people dressed as greens and collard sandwiches milled around the park.
“We’re going to have some fun, we’re going to raise some money, we’re going to eat some greens and we’re going to do some dancing,” said mayor-elect Emmett “Chip” Morton, a bundle of greens in hand.
Hattie McKoy and other festival committee volunteers manned the “command center” selling souvenirs like Collard Festival hats, tote bags and sweatshirts, with the proceeds going to future festivals. McKoy said she has been involved with the event for eight years, and it just keeps growing.
“I just love the excitement of the people,” she said. “I love the food, I love the collards.”
Rep. Garland Pierce welcomed those in attendance to “the collard capital of the world.” The weather was chilly for the festival’s 10th anniversary — but for those who know their collards, that’s a good sign.
“And as the old folks say, the frost has hit them, so they are ready to go,” Pierce said.
Donning a green bowler hat and a collard-adorned cane, Mr. Collard Leaf Gene Morrison espoused his love for the vegetable of honor, its bittersweet taste and its nutritional value.
“You get nothing but the best when you’re having a collard green,” he said.
Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.