Town and country mingle at N.C. Whirligig Festival

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Last weekend’s North Carolina Whirligig Festival captured our hearts and our town in the biggest way ever.

People from far and near came to celebrate, to enjoy music and dancing, to eat and browse in shops and to socialize. They came to enjoy the day and to carry away a variety of treasures.

The biggest attraction was, of course, the Vollis Simpson whirligigs that now decorate the park in our town.

As I walked the streets enjoying the festival along with thousands of others, I was struck with the thought of how elements of town and country mingled in a number of ways, giving the festival an aura of cooperation and work toward a common goal.

The most obvious of the mingling of town and country is the fact that the Vollis Simpson whirligigs were conceived and constructed on a farm near Lucama and then moved to Wilson to a permanent home at the Whirligig Park. No one can take the country out of those whirligigs, even though they now live on a busy street in town.

As I continued to walk around at the festival, I heard the beat of lively country music, the musicians playing guitar, banjo and double bass with joy and expertise as people watched, listened and did a lot of toe-tapping. I was taken back to my country roots and to memories of my country relatives who could pick and grin with joy in their hearts as they made their instruments sing. All those boys could play! The festival musicians represented the best of country coming to town.

Then there were vendors side by side on the streets as they represented the crafts of town and country. Some vendors traveled from around North Carolina and other states to delight us and to convince us to open our pocketbooks and carry treasures to our homes.

My husband and I bought one of those multi-colored spinners from Kentucky that takes me back to my uncle’s country home where he had a windmill spinning in his back yard. The image of the big windmill spinning with the lush and green foothills in the background brings back fond memories of country life.

And what is a festival without food, produced in the country and brought to town for all to enjoy? Our festival did not disappoint our appetites.

Finally, the idea of country mingling with town came to me in the form of a gift from two friends. They found a Tobaccoland Santa ornament at the festival that was “made from a piece of handmade tobacco stick,” as the label indicated. This precious gift takes me back to the time when we handled many tobacco sticks in the summertime under the tobacco shelter and in the packhouse. This country Santa ornament will find its way each year to our Christmas tree in our home in town.

If you are like me, you love town and you love the country, and this year’s N.C. Whirligig Festival brought the best of both worlds.

Thank you, Vollis Simpson, and thank you to all who had any part in this year’s collaboration of town and country and the joy it brought to thousands of people.

As I write these words, numerous things are dancing in my head: turkey legs, Kentucky spinners, the festival musicians and my pickin’ and grinnin’country cousins, the Tobaccoland Santa and, of course, Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs that put on the dog and bring fame to our town.

I can hardly wait for the 2018 N.C. Whirligig Festival!

Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.