The annual Court Square Street Fair is celebrating 30 years and a full slate of festivities is on tap for the heart of Sampson County, which this year will host thousands of visitors leading up to fair weekend.
The 30th annual Court Square Street Fair and 23rd annual Barbecue Cook-Off is set for downtown Clinton on Saturday, Oct. 8. Festivities, as usual, will extend down Lisbon Street toward the Clinton City Market and on to the Sampson County History Museum.
“Thanks to the strengthening of several existing partnerships, the event will be even bigger and better this year,” said Mary Rose, the Clinton Main Street Program manager. “The Court Square Street Fair is an event provided by the Clinton Main Street Program and its partners for the enjoyment of not only the citizens of Clinton, but also of Sampson and surrounding counties.”
The fair is being sponsored by the Sampson Arts Council, the Sampson County Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP), the History Museum, Sampson County Cooperative Extension, the Downtown Dash 5K, 10K and Fun Run Committee, the Ol’ Lightnin’ Rods Car Club and the City of Clinton.
A hallmark of the event, the barbecue judging will start at 8 a.m. that Saturday, with all 22 cooking spaces booked well in advance this year. The Downtown Dash 5K, 10K & Fun Run will start at 8 a.m. from the Vance Street parking lot and the annual BCCCP Breast Cancer Awareness Rally beginning at the Main Street stage in front of the Milling Around art piece at 9:30 a.m. The walk will end at the Sampson Center, located at 808 Barden St., where the rally will continue until noon.
“The Downtown Dash Committee has been working since June to plan another great morning of races,” said Downtown Dash Committee chairwoman Alison Carr. The event will include timed 5K (3.1 mile) and 10K (6.2 mile) events, as well as a 1-mile Fun Run. The 2015 event funded a new “Welcome to Downtown Clinton” sign, with a design which blends with the new City of Clinton wayfinding signage.
“Our committee is so thankful for the generous community sponsors who have invested in our goal to host a fun, athletic event in our city and to help fund our annual project to improve downtown Clinton,” Carr noted, while encouraging everyone to sign up to run or walk at www.runtheeast.com.
Cooperative Extension agents and director Eileen Coite will again be participating in the fair, with an exhibit area where fair-goers can find out about youth leadership opportunities, healthy eating, food safety and gardening tips, as well as agricultural appreciation and the economic impact it has for Sampson County.
The Sampson Arts Council will host its colorful array of annual activities at the Milling Around art piece off College Street, including street painting, face painting, demonstrations and a variety of other art activities. Kara Donatelli, executive director of Sampson Arts Council, encouraged children and parents alike to come and enjoy the fun, while taking in the Milling Art piece.
“As always, the street fair will feature free children’s rides as well as a variety of local entertainment, handmade crafts, and other non-profit and business exhibitors,” Rose noted.
The fair will make its way up Lisbon Street to the Clinton City Market, where the Ol’ Lightnin’ Rods Car Show will be held. The show continues to grow, bolstered by word of mouth and participation from other car clubs. Participants can register cars until noon at the City Market. Oldies 1170 will be on site, broadcasting live with Bob Stroud and the Boogie Shoes Network.
Just past the City Market, the Sampson County History Museum Craft Demonstration Day will provide visitors with a variety of free demonstrations and exhibits from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Rose offered her thanks to Barbecue Cook-Off gold sponsors Prestage Farms, Hog Slat, Smithfield-Clinton Plant and Smithfield Hog Production Division, and silver sponsor Williamson Gas Company.
She said she hopes the “growing fall event in downtown Clinton” will continue its upward trend, while bringing more visitors to a bustling downtown.
“We encourage event attendees to stop in to visit all our downtown businesses and see how many additions have been made to Downtown Clinton. With the completion of Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant at the corner of Wall and Main Street, as well as several other new businesses and specialty shops, downtown Clinton is quite the destination,” Rose remarked.
To inquire about vendor applications for booth spaces around the square for non-profits, craft vendors and business exhibitors, contact Betty Holland at 910-299-4904.
“We have 60 vendors registered and still room for more,” Rose said.
Big opening act
Leading up to the annual street fair, the 2016 Cycle North Carolina “Mountains to Coast” procession will bring more than 1,000 cyclists and another 1,000 organizers and volunteers into Clinton.
The route extends from Banner Elk to Atlantic Beach from Oct. 1-8, with 1,100 bicyclists expected to participate. Every year for nearly two decades, Cycle NC has stopped overnight in more than 100 North Carolina towns and visited nearly 700 communities in this state.
This year, Clinton is on that list, with cyclists stopping off on Thursday, Oct. 6 — the sixth overnight stop on the route.
Cycle NC was developed to promote the state’s scenic beauty, heritage tourism, visitor attractions, historic sites, state parks, fitness, healthy lifestyles and the benefits of bicycling. Sampson Convention and Visitors Bureau director Sheila Barefoot and several other local officials have attested to every motel room in the city being booked that night and Barefoot said the selection of Clinton as an overnight stop, which she and others worked hard to see to fruition, will produce an economic boom locally.
In conjunction with the Cycle NC tour, there will be two concerts on Oct. 6 held at the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center, the focal point of the stop, to officially close out the 2016 Alive After Five Summer Concert Series.
La Grange-based Spare Change, veterans to Alive After Five, will grace the stage along with homegrown band Eastline, a group formed in early 2015 that has the distinction of being the first truly local band to play as part of the series.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.