Farmer’s Day gets back to the basics: Agriculture gets renewed focus at this year’s event

Published 12:05 am Sunday, July 22, 2018

By Rebecca Rider

CHINA GROVE — China Grove’s Farmer’s Day is held rain or shine — though locals said they usually expect the shine. But cloudy skies and a few drops of rain didn’t deter vendors or visitors from attending the town-wide fair.

Long-time attendees joke that the festival always ends up falling on the hottest day of the year, but Saturday a chance of rain brought cloud cover, cooler temperatures and a blessing of a breeze.

“I don’t think we could’ve asked for any better weather,” China Grove Mayor Lee Withers said. “…But then again, it’s China Grove — it’s always good.”

Jeff and Donna Brotherton agreed. The couple, both China Grove natives, parked lawn chairs near the town square and sat down to enjoy the breeze and the cheer of the day.

The couple said they come out to Farmer’s Day every year, without fail.

“We came since I was little,” Donna said.

It’s a chance to shop crafts, enjoy good food and for neighbors to grow closer to each other.

“We get to see friends we normally don’t get to see,” Jeff said.

While they both enjoyed the booths, they said it was the food they looked forward to every year — fresh, homemade ice-cream and mouthwatering fried apple pies.

With them was Donna’s mother, Gaye Bost, who’s been attending Farmer’s Day since it first started up 37 years ago.

“I used to have a booth, right in front of the dime store,” Bost said, pointing towards the square.

In fact, Bost had a booth the very first Farmer’s day. That first year was worlds away from today’s Farmer’s Day.

“It was a lot different,” she said. “The things that was sold had to be handmade.”

There was only a small crowd that first year, and the streets weren’t closed. Bost sold handmade crafts on the square for more than 10 years before she decided to give it up — but she still visits the festival each year.

She and Donna both agreed Farmer’s Day has changed dramatically over the years.

“It’s gotten more commercial,” Donna said.

The handmade requirement was dropped eventually, and for a while, even the farmers the day was named after faded from the celebration. But that’s changed this year.

“We worked really hard to bring agriculture back to Farmer’s Day,” Patti Price, event coordinator, said.

After reaching out to local farmers and agriculture groups like the Rowan County Beekeepers’ Association and the Rowan County Cooperative Extension, this year’s festival put the farmer back in Farmer’s Day. A special section of Main Street was designated as a farmer’s market, featuring fresh produce, tractors and more.

“We are thrilled to have the farmers back here,” Price said.

According to Price, this year’s Farmer’s Day featured approximately 166 vendors, ranging from food to information to handmade crafts.

A big draw was the Little Mr. and Miss Farmer’s Day contest, held each year to choose the cutest would-be farmer. Chris and Elissa Boyd decided to enter their 18-month-old son, Theo, in the contest “because he’s cute, and just for fun.”

The couple moved to the area a few years ago, and said they enjoyed the festival.

Friend Aaron Repine said he enjoyed the variety of activities.

“They’ve got plenty to do, plenty of fun,” he said.

In addition to booths and shopping, Farmer’s Day also featured live music, entertainment, a street dance and a planned fireworks show, weather permitting.

Farmer’s Day is funded by local sponsors. This year’s sponsors included: Novant Health, Atrium Health, Rowan County, the Farm Bureau, Cannon Pharmacy, F&M Bank, Cabarrus Community Health Centers, Carl Ford, Gary’s Bar-B-Q, Hitachi Metals and the Fred Corriher Jr. YMCA, among others.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.