Celebrating autumn right with Jubilee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The games people play.
At Dan Nicholas Park’s Autumn Jubilee, they’re the old-fashioned kind that, when you get down to it, are still a lot of fun.
And funny.
Roberta Grantham, 71, jumped up Saturday and volunteered to hold the legs of her grown granddaughter Kari Hundley in the wheelbarrow race.
The result was both disastrous and hilarious. With Roberta steering, the women made it about a quarter of the way down their lane before collapsing in a heap.
So what do you do after suffering that kind of humiliation?
You enter the sack race. And in Kari’s case, you wish you had a belt to keep your pants from falling down as you hop toward the finish line.
So goes a day at Autumn Jubilee, a signature event in Rowan County when people gather by the thousands to say goodbye to summer and hello to well, autumn, of course.
An incredible, sun-swept day pleased visitors, crafts people and vendors alike to the 29th edition Saturday, with the weatherman’s promise that today would offer more of the same.
Autumn Jubilee continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, featuring 140 crafters, hands-on demonstrations, food vendors, continuous stage shows, games and, for the first time, Radio Disney, which from 2 to 4 p.m. will offer dancing, games, Radio Disney talent, prizes and give-aways.
Nantucket will highlight the music today when the band performs from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
For years, Rocky Hundley and Steve Ogburn have traveled with their family and friends from Forsyth County to organize and run the old-timey competitions such as the cross-cut saw, tug-o-war, sack race, wheelbarrow race, balloon toss and the popular “Apples in the Hay.”
“We’ve never missed a weekend,” Hundley said, describing how kids who used to be in the sack races are now bringing their own children to the games. Their own kids, Justin Ogburn and Shane Hundley, are now grown, and they won the adult wheelbarrow race for the 12th straight year Saturday.
Rocky Hundley and Steve Ogburn drafted Pam Hinson and Mechele Stoltz for the cross-cut saw challenge, seeing how long it would take them to saw through a log in push-me-pull-me fashion. After a tough start, the women finished in 1 minute, 23 seconds.
“They said it wasn’t about strength,” Pam Hinson said, her biceps aching. “Yeah, right.”
It isn’t an Autumn Jubilee without contests, homemade ice cream, fried apple pies, pork chop sandwiches, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, meat on a stick and meat on a bone.
Yes, Boy Scout Troop 333 was back, selling its traditional turkey legs.
“This year is perfect and, hopefully, it will work out for us,” Scoutmaster Tony Waller said.
The troop buys 30 cases of turkey legs for Autumn Jubilee and pushes hard to sell out by the end of today. At $7 a leg, the concession is the troop’s major fundraiser for the year.
John Daigle, who was selling carved items such as frogs, owls and crickets ó all of which made sounds like the animals they represent ó said Autumn Jubilee gives his booth great traffic.
The people are great, the hours are short and the event is well-organized, he said.
“On all dimensions, this one’s great,” said John Daigle, who works for Q-Sales out of Atlanta.
Gale Howard is trying Autumn Jubilee as a vendor for the first time this year. She calls her jewelry offerings “Aunt Gale’s Bling Blings.”
“So far, I’m impressed,” Howard said of all the people stopping by her tent.
Howard makes her jewelry at her home in Wallburg. It all started when she started producing her light-catching and sparkling crystal ball sliders.
“And then, as my husband says, I just went crazy,” she confessed.
The same could be said of Gary Dollarhide, who has gone crazy with cedar. He makes cedar chests, boxes, birdhouses, bird feeders, rod-and-reel holders, display cases and more. People stopping by his spot Saturday couldn’t help lifting the lid to a box and breathing in the cedar smell.
The work all springs from a hobby ó something Dollarhide concentrates on from October through Christmas as far as selling anything.
“I’m not trying to make a living out of it,” he said. “I would starve if I did.”
Ed and Sharon Bartlett, owners of Wood-N-Things, say they have been coming to Autumn Jubilee from Mocksville with their wooden toys and games, rocking horses and covered wagon lamps for years.
“The kids won’t let us come anywhere else this weekend,” Sharon Bartlett said. “But we do real well here, too.”
As they watched children paint pumpkins, Ashley Parham and her mother, Donna Huneycutt, said they make it a point to reserve the first weekend in October for Autumn Jubilee.
The park has become stroller friendly, and the mother-daughter “buy the crafts, do the activities, come out and have fun,” Parham said.
“There’s no more festivals like this around,” said Julienne Fallen, who traveled to Autumn Jubilee from Albemarle with her 6-year-old daughter, Ruth. “And she loves Dan Nicholas Park.”
Ruth rode the carousel six or seven times, the train five to six times and fed the ducks as part of her big day. She also spent considerable time Saturday putting finishing touches on her painted pumpkin.
Back at the games, Hinson was still huffing and puffing from her cross-cut saw competition.
“I can bowl,” she said, “but I can’t do this.”