The big day is approaching in Garland, an all-day event expected to kick off a new era in the town courtesy of a state grant promising planning and projects toward community revitalization. The town has adopted a new slogan, “Greatness grows in Garland” and has encouraged residents to play a part in a “special day.”
Everyone is invited to Garland’s North Carolina Small Town Economic Prosperity (N.C. STEP) Kick-Off celebration and festivities on Saturday, Aug. 11. The event will extend throughout the day, from activities and parade setup in the morning to various events — food, music, dancing and games — on tap until 9 p.m.
The Garland Board of Commissioners recently heard an update from various event committee members about the kickoff festivities, which have received a large outpouring of support since the date was announced. Mayor Winifred Murphy said the town would welcome all the assistance it could get. The more, the merrier, she said.
“It seems like it’s just been ballooning and blossoming and getting larger and larger,” said Murphy. “We are asking for more support for that day.”
Committee member Joyce Miles presented the slogan for the N.C. STEP event — “Greatness grows in Garland,” a slogan approved by the board Thursday and expected to adorn T-shirts being made for the event. While T-shirts will be sold, nearly every other aspect of the celebration is free, from parade entries to concessions and games to rides. Garland’s STEP committee members have not only solicited donations from the community in offering services as part of the event, they have urged participation from town board members and others.
“We’ve all been playing a role in getting the N.C. STEP program together for that day,” said Miles. “Now we’re asking for anyone who does not have a part in a committee, this is the time you can step in and give your support. We foresee this as been a glorious day, a glorious opportunity for Garland to come together and wrap their arms around one another.”
The Rev. Dr. Ronald Highsmith said the parade lineup is still being prepared. There is no entry cost, and town officials were trying to contact potential attendees to make sure they would be attending. The route will be the same as the annual Rotary Fair procession, and Murphy said the route would be finalized so dignitaries and others would be led back to the park for the following ceremony.
Murphy will serve as grand marshal.
Brenda Cromartie, who is coordinating entertainment and publicity for the event, said she was working toward offering many games and rides, to include bounce houses, sack racing, bingo, dance contests and a basketball shoot-off. There would also be music, and Cromartie said she wants to be all-inclusive with the offerings.
“We do want to have all types of music that day,” Cromartie said. “We want to have Gospel, country, soul, bluegrass and some Hispanic music. We want to have music for everybody. We want the whole community involved, something to cover everyone.”
As far as publicity, Cromartie said she wants everyone in Garland and the surrounding communities to not only know about the event, but plan on attending. The town’s Rotary Fair annually brings in crowds and she said she wanted to see a similar turnout, if not larger, for the STEP event.
“We plan to advertise this thing,” Cromartie said. “If you haven’t seen a lot of people in Garland before — I know for the Rotary Fair a lot come — but we’re really trying to canvas this area. We want to let them know Garland is being revitalized.”
The parade lineup will begin at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 11 with the parade starting at 9:30 a.m. A meet and greet will be held at 10:45, followed by the N.C. STEP ceremony at 11:15. Representatives from the North Carolina Rural Center will be on hand to present the town of Garland with its official N.C. STEP banner. Local and state dignitaries are expected to be in attendance. At 11:45 a.m., N.C. STEP activities begin and celebratory activities will continue throughout the day, with food, music, games and entertainment for everyone.
A health fair and information booths, such as those promoting local events, education and programs, are also being planned.
Cynthia Murphy, who is coordinating food for the event and back to school activities, said the plans are to have hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as chicken and barbecue. Snow cones, popcorn and other treats were also expected.
Murphy said she has 12 cooks, but is looking for any other help she can get as far as grills and manpower. Commissioner Matthew Register offered his services, saying he could cook for about 250 people on his grill. “You start getting over 250 people, that’s a lot of barbecue,” he said.
According to town officials, everything is expected to be offered free of charge, minus the T-shirts.
The shirts may be green, with the town seal and likely the new slogan in black lettering, however the exact design on the shirt was not determined. Committee members are expected to discuss the matter further leading up to the event.
The cost of the shirts would be $10 in an effort to recoup the cost in making them and bank a couple extra dollars for future town revitalization efforts. Part of the community involvement and celebration, the town will be holding a “Pack the Bus” sort of effort leading up to the STEP Kick-Off event. The Back to School effort will be held on Saturday, Aug. 4, a week before the big day.
“I still need more volunteers for Back to School,” said Cynthia Murphy. “What we’re planning to do next Saturday is to put a bus in front of Family Dollar. We are asking for everyone to come out and donate. We want to fill this bus up with supplies for our kids. I don’t care if you come in and just buy an eraser or a pencil or a pen or a pad of paper — everything is well needed. Tell family members, tell all your loved ones. There are kids out there who do not have, and the parents cannot provide.”
Mayor Murphy encouraged local churches who normally engaged in such Back to School efforts to combine forces as part of the town’s event.
Once the school supplies are received — there will be lists from local schools of the items needed for the upcoming year — they will be distributed through the N.C. STEP event. The bus will be parked outside Family Dollar in Garland all day Saturday, starting at 7:30 a.m. and extending to 5 p.m.
Murphy and committee members conceded much is still up in the air and still needed to be nailed down during planning. However, one thing was clear: the event is anticipated to be huge, a fitting celebration for the receipt of a $125,000 grant.
“We just want to make sure the board is aware of everything we’re doing and give us their blessings,” the mayor said. “Committees will be contacting each one of you, because we need each one of you involved before, during and after this event.”
Those wishing to offer assistance or participate in the parade, or for more information, call Garland Town Hall at 910-529-4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, Aug. 1.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.