Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It’s Nazareth Fun Fest time.
If you know Linda Benge, you know that anything she tells you about how much fun the Nazareth Children’s Home Fun Fest will be on Saturday is true.
Now director of human services and community relations at the home, she’ll become director of quality assurance in July ó and when she says something, everybody knows it can be counted on.
And this year the Fun Fest will be Nazareth’s best ever, she says, because every year it’s been better than the year before. The first anniversary celebration took place on Sept. 12, 1907, one year after the Children’s Home opened in 1906, using local talent and homemade food, and 10,000 people had a Fun Fest.
And it’s had a big, big day once a year ever since.
“This year,” she says, “we’re hoping for 12,000 to 15,000 people or even more. All our entertainment will be by local people, so we’re hoping that will bring more people in.”
Breakfast will be served on campus, a car and bike show will open at 8 a.m., and Vernon L. Walters Jr., Nazareth president and CEO, will welcome the guests and lead a prayer.
The fun will begin then with a variety of music, dance and various reunions.
The day will also include Wagon Wheel Cloggers, the appearance of Eddie Branham and Robin Foil, the 2006 Faith Idol winners, a performance by the Crescent Cloggers, and a raffle for a 2003 Honda Civic, a beach trip, a hand-made quilt, a $50 gift certificate to the Nazareth Outlet Store and the annual 50-50 drawing.
“The day will be dedicated to the memory of Gene Briles, a former disk jockey who was the master of ceremonies at the Fun Fest for several years,” Benge adds, “but he died on April 30 of a brain tumor at the age of 61. He always came and did it for no pay, and he had a sound system, so the celebration had its master of ceremonies for no cost.”
Butch Mattox will be this year’s master of ceremonies.
The Fun Fest will begin at 8 a.m. with the craft shows.
“Vendors will come in and sell their crafts in some spaces inside the gym and some outside, and some are still available,” she says.
The big day will last until 5 p.m. when there will be a drawing for prizes as well as a 50-50 drawing for a dollar each.
Mark Beattie, an alumni member of Nazareth, is in charge of the sale of those tickets.
Many baskets full of goodies will be distributed through a silent auction, and another highlight of the day will be the appearance of the Carolina Panthers and their mascot, who will try to shake hands with everyone there.
The J.M.L. Lyerly family reunion will be at 12 o’clock. Alumni will also have their lunch and meeting at 1 o’clock, which is the time all former residents who were children when they lived at Nazareth will get together.
And food and fun will be available throughout the day.
“So bring your lawn chairs and stay all day,” Benge urges.
“We’re going to have plenty of old-fashioned ice cream, pineapple sherbet, lemonade and food.”
“The stage is under the shade trees, and there will be a cool breeze blowing all day,” she promises, “and there’s no admission charge.”
What’s more, it won’t all be over on Saturday.
Pastor Paul Mills of Trinity will lead a worship service Sunday morning at 10 a.m. on the outside stage. Christy Trexler will be the soloist.
You can reach Nazareth Children’s Home by taking Highway 52 or Faith Road and turn right when it intersects with Crescent Road, and very quickly you’ll see the home ó and a happy, friendly crowd.Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or