Fun weekend planned at the N.C. Whirligig Festival

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It’s N.C. Whirligig Festival time, and you know what that means: plenty of fun, food, music, arts and crafts in downtown Wilson the weekend of Nov. 3-4.

Take the family and spend a day (or two) exploring the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and walk up and down city streets looking for unique gifts and specialty foods from crab cakes and pitas to kettle corn and chicken and waffles. You can even purchase specialty coffees from Nomad Coffee Co.

Get an early start on your holiday shopping by visiting the many vendors who will be selling a variety of items including jewelry, pottery, hair bows, salsa, tobacco benches, toys, wreaths and soaps.

This year’s festival has a different footprint with the Whirligig Park, located at the corner of Goldsboro and South streets, as the starting point. Entertainment stages and vendors will also branch out along Douglas and Goldsboro streets, as well as on connecting Nash, Barnes and South streets.

On Nash Street, the festival will start at Douglas Street and extend to Tarboro Street (the courthouse block), where it will stop. Tarboro and Pine streets will remain open to traffic during the festival, according to Theresa Mathis, festival director.

Mathis said the expanded territory toward the park provides an opportunity to accept more vendors. In the last six years, vendors have been turned away, Mathis said, because of space constraints.

There will be plenty of space this year. In fact, the festival will be welcoming many additional vendors who lost festival dates because of Hurricane Florence.

Headline bands this year are East Coast Rhythm and Blues, playing from 2:45 to 5 p.m. Saturday on the Greenlight Stage near the courthouse, and The Tams from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday at Whirligig Park stage. The Tams come back every two years by popular demand, Mathis said, and always put on a lively show.

Ninja Challenge is returning this year, this time in the grassy lot beside Whirligig Park. Wilson Medical Center is once again sponsoring this attraction. Last year, America Ninja Warriors showed their skills on a challenge course, and people lined up to try their luck as well.

The popular Whirli-Kidz Zone will draw families for a day of fun, free events including hamster ball races for humans and inflatables. For a fee, kids can also make a stuffed animal. Local children will perform on the Whirli-Kidz stage. The Kidz Zone will also feature Nick’s Kids and Barnyard Kids shows.

The Whirli-Kidz Zone will be in a new location this year, in the expanded parking lot at Barnes and Goldsboro streets. (Look for the decorative lighthouse.)

Close by, Wilson Energy employees will be stationed on South Street and will take people up in a bucket truck to get an elevated view of the whirligigs. Also on South, the city will have several displays, including Greenlight’s virtual reality feature. Lego Brick Scholars will also be on South.

As usually, there will be plenty to eat. Because of the new location, there’s room for an additional 10 food vendors, Mathis said. She’s pleased to have the Police Athletic League returning this year with an expanded menu of deep-fried desserts. Downtown restaurants and other businesses will also be open.

Parking is free in city parking lots, Mathis said. If you get charged or see a lot advertising parking for a fee, it’s not a city lot; it’s an individual making the decision to charge, she said.

This is the 14th installment of the N.C. Whirligig Festival. The festival celebrates the whimsical artwork made by the late Vollis Simpson, who lived in Lucama. The park has been open since last November.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.

For more information about the festival, visit www.whirligigfestivalnc.org.