Farmer’s Day 2017: A new stage, bubbles and fun for all

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 16, 2017

By Jessica Coates

CHINA GROVE – There are some things that never change about Farmer’s Day – the many food options, the live music, the rows of vendors on Main Street. But Farmer’s Day event planner Patti Price said that they always try to have a few new things every year.

This year, one of the new festival attractions provided nothing short of squeaky clean fun.

“It’s liquid smiles,” said Steve Langley, a professional “bubblologist” who made his first Farmer’s Day appearance this year. “Liquid joy, as I call it.”

Langley — who was born in Maryland but grew up in Charlotte — has done a lot to earn the title of professional bubblologist. In the last year, he has performed at a White House Halloween party and as an opening act for the world premiere of Finding Dory in Hollywood.

“I’ve found it’s pretty universal,” Langley said. “It transcends language, it transcends culture, it transcends politics, transcends religion. It’s just everybody — everybody in the world loves bubbles.”

Langley has also broken a Guinness world record — he connected 25 soap bubbles to make the longest ever chain of its kind — and has been featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Langley was stationed just down the street from St. Mark’s Lutheran Church — located at 326 N. Main St. — and was using a large bubble wand to delight passersby from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It’s a difficult medium, it’s a very difficult medium,” Langley said as he effortlessly created a bubble the size of a person’s torso. “You have to deal with factors that are out of your control — environment, air movement, things that you have no control over. So, many times, it’s hard for the bubbles to happen.”

Langley estimates that there are only several hundred bubblologists in the world.

He himself was not one until three years ago. Prior to making bubbles, Langley was a professional juggler for three decades.

“A more serious occupation,” he said, laughing. “I actually set out to set a Guinness world record for juggling bubbles the longest time. That’s what sort of got me onto bubbles from juggling.”

From there, Langley became fascinated with the unique nature of bubbles.

“I was studying soap so I could learn to juggle bubbles and I just became so fascinated with the medium and I just realized how strong it connects with people,” Langley said.

Some of Langley’s bubble tricks include putting small bubbles inside of larger bubbles, putting gases inside of bubbles so that they catch fire and making elaborate bubble sculptures.

Other Farmer’s Day 2017 changes

Price said that the biggest change for the festival this year was the addition of a permanent stage in Hanna Park.

“We used to have two stages — one in Hanna Park and one down here across from Family House (restaurant). Family House was not open and now they’re allowed to be open,” Price said. “And we built a permanent stage in Hanna Park, so we have a stationary stage there now. And all of the music and food vendors and everything is right there. So it’s our permanent stage and that’s a big, big change for us.”

She said that, while some people may have been upset about the different layout the new stage created, she had heard mostly positive comments about the change.

“Change is always hard. People don’t like change. But we need to change things to keep the festival relevant and keep it interesting for people and keep bringing in new people. So change is that evil word that nobody likes, but it’s important and it’s necessary,” Price said.

This year, there were 149 booths at the festival. And, while Price said that’s not the biggest turnout they’ve ever had, it is still a very high level of participation.

She said that, moving forward, she hopes the festival can continue to grow and evolve.

“We’re always open for suggestions; we’re always looking for one thing we can do to make it better,” she said.

Price said that planning for Farmer’s Day 2018 will likely begin in the next few weeks.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.