The first event of the 2022 North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival will take place Thursday from 7–8:30. Festival Queen Pamela Young-Jacobs will greet well-wishers during a reception at the Columbus County Arts Council gallery. The gathering is free to the public, and the arts gallery is located at 822 S. Madison St.
Parade Marshal Dwight Burleson will also be a guest of honor at the Queen’s Reception, which is just the beginning of the weekend event that in the past has brought 10,000 or more people to downtown Whiteville.
After two years of setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic and inclement weather, Joan McPherson, chair of the festival’s organizing committee, said she and her fellow volunteers hope people will “make plans to come and join us.”
The Queen will receive her crown and the public will meet her court of Pecan Belles at Vineland Station at 11:30 a.m. Friday before the next event of the festival, the Queen’s Luncheon. The Belles, six selected young ladies from Central Middle School, will attend the queen as she presides over the festivities. They are Ila Simpson, Montayza McCullough, Maddalyn Williamson, Caroline Palmer, Jubilee Baldwin and Dennisha Richardson.
Home tours will follow the luncheon from 1–4 p.m. and from 5–7 p.m. Although combination luncheon/tour tickets are no longer available, tour-only tickets will be for sale from 1–4:30 at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Tourism on Friday.
The last time the festival offered its popular tour of homes was in 2019. McPherson said luncheon/home tour ticket sales have been steady and, “There is a lot of interest and excitement about the home tour being back.”
Even before the 10 a.m. parade on Saturday, downtown Whiteville will be full of varied activities for all ages. The Classic Cruisers will host a car show sponsored by Vann Underwood Chrysler Jeep Dodge, with prizes for car owners and a 50/50 drawing for the public. Owners begin pulling their cars into place early in the morning and must be registered by noon.
Vendors are expected to be finished with setup and ready to do business by 9 a.m.
Participants may join the parade by lining up on Lee Street in front of Whiteville High School at 8:30 a.m.
Bill Thompson will introduce dignitaries on the stage at the intersection of Main and Madison streets at 11:30 a.m., and entertainment will run from noon–4 p.m., featuring beach music from the Pink Slips Band. Whether you want to dance or bring your favorite lawn chair and relax, the entertainment is free.
Brian King of Whiteville Rescue is organizing an EMT competition to be held across from the Arts Council, in front of the former Lewis Smith Shopping Center, McPherson said.
Whiteville High School band boosters and local restaurants will provide traditional burgers and hot dogs, said McPherson, and committee member Terry Mann is in touch with food trucks that will bring in alternative menu options.
Opportunities to learn
The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville invites festival-goers to make a visit to 415 S. Madison St. on Saturday. Community Educator Brian Wuertz said NCMNS will host two special bird-related programs Saturday at 7:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wuertz’s phone number is 910-788-5108.
Curator of Ornithology John Gerwin and members of his research team will lead an informative downtown bird walk at 7:30. Participants will “practice birding skills, including identifying bird calls, using binoculars and observing field marks,” a release from the museum said. “This free program will be a moderate-paced walk of approximately one mile.” Those interested are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and suitable outdoor clothes and to bring bird guides and binoculars if they have them. A limited number of binoculars will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, the release said.
Museum visitors may also join researchers for an interactive presentation on bird specimen preparation. Sessions lasting about two hours will begin at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“You will see the process of dissecting birds and preparing study skins for research collections,” the press release said. “Guests can also participate in the dissection process.” Drop-in observers are welcome.
Representatives of the N.C. Pecan Growers Association will staff a streetside table downtown to promote the nut that gives the festival its name. There will be plenty of pecans for sale this year, association president John Taylor said. Association members will distribute informational materials and answer questions about growing pecans.
More free fun
Volunteers Melissa Williamson and Caroline Smith are planning Kids’ Block activities for the 600 block of S. Madison Street from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on Saturday. Plans include a miniature train and a clown. Nonprofit groups are welcome at no charge to set up areas offering fun activities for children. They may email Melissa Williamson at email@example.com.
Arts Council fundraiser finishes the day
Finally, the Columbus County Arts Council will be the site of a new event offering a way to slow down after the hustle and bustle of the street celebrations. Sally Mann, arts council director, has planned a beer and wine garden from noon–7 p.m. Saturday in the courtyard of the art gallery at 822 S. Madison St., McPherson said. The event will be an arts council fundraiser, she said, with more music from Paleo Sun from 4–7 p.m.