Autumn Jubilee: After 40 years, you can comfortably call it tradition

Published 12:10 am Sunday, October 6, 2019

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — Regina Hundley belongs to a family contingent of 60-plus people who make Autumn Jubilee an annual thing.

Traveling from Forysth County, Hundley’s crew camps at Dan Nicholas Park on Friday and Saturday nights. On Saturday, the first day of the jubilee, the family members scatter all over the park.

They take in the food, visit the arts and crafts tents of more than 100 vendors, settle in for some music at the amphitheater and do all the stuff available for kids. Dinosaurs proved to be a big theme this year.

On Saturday nights, the family tradition is to make chicken stew. Everybody says their goodbyes Sunday, with some of the group taking in more of Autumn Jubilee before they go.

Hundley says her husband has been coming to Autumn Jubilee for 30 some years. Her personal count is now over 20, and their 13-year-old twins never want to miss.

“We only miss it if one of us dies,” Hundley said of all the family who come, “and no one has died yet, so we haven’t missed.”

As she spoke, Hundley held a luscious dish of nachos supreme.

The 40th Autumn Jubilee continues from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today at Dan Nicholas Park, 6800 Bringle Ferry Road.

The cooler, overcast weather proved welcome and almost perfect for the thousands of people who attended Saturday, and the forecast looks good today, too.

For Sarah Rogers, this is the third year she has brought her Widdershins Creations to Autumn Jubilee from Statesville, but she already has figured out why the event draws such large crowds every year.

“The tradition of it,” she said. “It’s coming home for a lot of people. No matter how far you go, a lot of people come back for Autumn Jubilee.”

Rogers sews unusual quilts, crafts and creatures and has a little bit of each for sale under her Autumn Jubilee tent. The name “Widdershin” means counterclockwise or contrary, and for Rogers that translates to her passion for creating homemade, interesting things you won’t find in big and fancy stores.

“My mom has sewn ever since I can remember,” Rogers said. “My dad makes quilts. That’s just what you do — you create things.”

Rogers’ parents and her sister, Naomi Nedrow, joined her at the booth Saturday. Her father brought a guitar, a man stopped by with a harmonica “and we’ve been having a jam session this morning,” Rogers said.

Next door, Susan Miller was having success once again selling the turkeys off her “turkey farm.” They are her table decorations for the season whose materials include silk flowers, acorns, walnuts and felt — all cleverly combined to make a turkey.

In the past, she has sold up to 200 of the turkeys at Autumn Jubilee. She also brought some Christmas things to sell, including handsome $1 Christmas ornaments that are painted from the inside, Susan’s husband explained.

The variety of food available is considerable at Autumn Jubilee, but word circulated quickly among  the hungry about the “meat (pork) on a stick available at the FACS tent for $3. Long lines formed to purchase the meat on sticks.

“They’re awesome,” said Janice Huffman, who attended Autumn Jubilee early with her sister, Crystal Earnhardt, and Crystal’s daughter, Blair Miller.

They were leaving by 11 a.m. with bags of popcorn, apple pies and “I think I’m the only one who got Christmas gifts,” Janice said, holding up her bag.

The women try to attend Autumn Jubilee every year, and it has cherished memories attached to it.

“Tradition,” Earnhardt said. “We use to come out here when our mom was alive.”

Michelle Whitney, her daughter, Tonn, and friend Kelli Brafford also beat the big afternoon crowds by attending early. Michelle was leaving with an autumn wreath she purchased, and the girls each had painted pumpkins.

“It’s tradition for us,” Michelle said, echoing the sentiment of the day.

For $2, people can decorate a pumpkin and take it home with them. Jessica Leonard said the pumpkin Abby Lusk was painting next to Micah Thompson might find a useful purpose at home.

“We’re going to make a fall scene of hay, mums, leaves and stick it out in the front yard,” Leonard said.

But back to the food. Some said the pound cakes from Eastside Baptist Church were to die for, while many people opted for the traditional turkey leg, appropriately being sold next to meat on a stick.

Donna Patterson, her son Ben and his wife, Melissa, could not pass up the chicken and dumplings being sold by the Millbridge Ruritan Club.

“You got to get the chicken and dumplings,” Ben said. “You can get Bojangles any time of the week.”

There were plenty of other things — food or otherwise — to try out Saturday. Walter Recinos, 5, and his 3-year-old brother, Gionni, enjoyed, for example, the Jurassic-themed bounce house.

“They love it,” their mother said of their enthusiasm for Autumn Jubilee overall. “They call it ‘the fair.'”

Ella King, 8, took a bouncy rump on the “bungee jump,” which allows kids to get pretty good air time. “I really had fun on it,” Ella reported, although she’s a trampoline veteran who likes that a bit better.

Julie Siegmund and her son, Dakota, climbed the heights of the rock wall. “I was a little afraid I’d fall down on him,” an enthused and breathless Julie said later.

Beverly Burton walked her grandson, Robert Santos, through the dinosaur exhibit between shows.

“I wanted to make sure to come here for him because he loves dinosaurs,” Burton said.

Outside that tent, Lettie and Brad Stuhldreher were showing their 3-year-old granddaughter, Izzy, the scary, mechanically moving head of another dinosaur. She was more interested than scared of all those teeth.

Which is good. Lettie said, “She’s going to be a dinosaur for Halloween.”

Halloween — just another tradition on the horizon.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.