China Grove celebrates 30th edition of Farmers Day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2012

By Karissa Minn
CHINA GROVE — For the 30th time, the annual Farmers Day festival brought food, music, crafts and local pride to downtown China Grove on Saturday.
“It’s a festival in our hometown, so it’s like our heritage,” said town resident Jessica Wise. “I know why they originally started Farmers Day, and now it’s turned into all of this.”
The China Grove Farmers Day began in 1982 to honor local farmers by inviting them to sell their produce at a farmers market. Other local merchants began to join in. Now, the summer celebration draws tens of thousands of people and stretches over several blocks of Main Street.
Wise said she and her daughters, who sported sparkling face paint Saturday, said they try to attend the festival every year.
This time, Wise brought her boyfriend, Charlotte resident Khaled Dais, who said he thought it was just a farmers market.
“When she told me it was ‘Farmers Day,’ I wasn’t excited,” Dais said. “But I love it. They have a lot of things to do here.”
Wise said her favorite part is shopping for homemade crafts, and she likes that there are activities for her girls.“It’s a really good event to come and have a good day with your family,” Wise said.
Throughout the day, musicians and other performers entertained festivalgoers on three different stages. Children played carnival games and bounced in inflatable houses.
In keeping with the day’s history, the festival also featured booths with locally-grown produce and a display of antique farm equipment and cars.
Throngs of people walked along a line of more than 200 vendors selling crafts, clothes, keepsakes, a variety of fair foods and more. A few said that in the morning hours, it was the busiest Farmers Day they’ve seen.
Lee Withers, who assisted Amanda Eller in organizing the event, said he estimates that about 30,000 people came to this year’s festival.
“I think we had a gracious and steady crowd all day long,” Withers said. “That means the vendors and merchants, which we do this for, are getting a lot of business. … It’s been an amazing day.”
Brenda Kafka, a Kannapolis resident, worked a booth called “Alice and Brenda’s Crafts.” She said it was her first time as a vendor at Farmers Day, and she’ll probably be back.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’s fantastic,” Kafka said. “We heard this was a pretty big event here, so we thought we’d give it a shot, and we’ve been real pleased with it.”
She said she hadn’t had a chance to explore the festival because their booth had been so busy.
But Sherrie Harman, of Concord, said business seemed slow for the amount of people there. She ran a pottery booth called Simply Sherrie.
“I think it’s a great crowd… but they’re not buying much,” she said. “Maybe it’s the economy.”
Perry McCallum grew up in China Grove, but Saturday was his first Farmers Day in about 20 years, he said. McCallum recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps and came back home.
“They’ve changed it up, but it’s changed for the better,” he said. “There’s new and different stuff, and there’s more people involved with it. It’s nice, very nice.”
McCallum loved listening to the performers, he said, and would be back for the street dance and fireworks that evening. He said his 3-year-old daughter, Aleah, also “was getting her little dance on” as the music played.
Also joining McCallum at the festival were his son, J.T., and his son’s friend and classmate, Brandon Sloop.
Sloop sat in the dunking booth Saturday afternoon to raise money for Jesse C. Carson High School, where he is a rising sophomore.
Sloop said he didn’t mind being dunked, because “it felt good, it was so hot outside.”
Julie Harmon, of Kannapolis, took shade under the floppy hat she had just bought at her first Farmers Day. She came with her daughter Carin, 13, and her son Cade, 3, who got an Angry Birds tattoo airbrushed on his arm Saturday.
“I would definitely come back,” Harmon said. “I enjoyed seeing all the crafts and letting the kids do some stuff they don’t normally do.”
Her next-door neighbors, Steve and Lisa Brown, said they try to make it to the festival every year.
“We love to see all the booths, and get out and fellowship with everyone,” Lisa Brown said. “It’s good to get out of the house and see the community get together.”
The Army’s 82nd Airborne Division military chorus, an a cappella choral group from Fort Bragg, performed during the Farmers Day opening ceremony Saturday morning.
Winners of the Mr./Miss Farmer’s Day Pageant were Kaitlyn Losh (female, 3 to 5 years old), Braydn Overcash (male, 3 to 5 years old), Adalyn Grace Moffitt (female, up to 2 years old) and Dales Gardner (male, up to 2 years old).
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Facebook: Karissa.SalisburyPost