As Hurricane Matthew strengthens and heads for the East Coast, the heavy winds and rains expected in Sampson County have led towns to urge emergency planning and local events to be canceled — notably the 30th annual Court Square Street Fair and all the festivities that come with it.
“Due to forecasts for significant rain and wind gusts on Saturday, Oct. 8, we have officially canceled the Court Street Fair and BBQ Cook-off,” a Downtown Clinton Facebook post read Thursday morning. “There is no rain date for this event.”
The Downtown Dash Committee has also made the decision to cancel the 5th Annual Downtown Dash 5K/10K. Packets can be picked up Friday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and participants will receive their goodie bags and T-shirts. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) Breast Cancer Rally scheduled for Saturday morning has likewise been canceled.
Craft Demonstration Day at the Sampson History Museum and the Ol’ Lightnin’ Rods Antique Car Show, held in conjunction with the street fair, were also canceled earlier this week. Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose, who serves as the Clinton Main Street manager and does much of the coordinating for the annual fair, said she waited as long as she could in considering whether to cancel.
She has heard the concerns from residents about the event having no rain date and said, with all the moving parts involved in the street fair and other local events on upcoming Saturdays, there was a lot to take into consideration.
“The Sorghum Festival is next Saturday and Harrells Community Day is the Saturday after that,” Rose said. “We don’t want to impact them. We wanted to be considerate of those events and we just have so many moving parts and partners to consider for this event.”
Late Thursday afternoon, Sampson County Schools announced that due to inclement weather expected for the area, the school system would be releasing two hours early on Friday for students and staff.
The imminent threat of severe weather prompted local towns to declare a state of emergency in their respective municipalities. Town officials called emergency meetings Wednesday night to discuss disaster plans in the event Hurricane Matthew strikes Sampson County.
Commissioners in Roseboro declared a curfew Oct. 8-9, between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., in the event that conditions warrant such restrictions, to maintain peace and order throughout the corporate limits of Roseboro.
The Clinton City Council and Mayor Lew Starling released a proclamation for a state of emergency earlier Wednesday. The purpose was to prepare for weather conditions that may “constitute an imminent threat of widespread or sever damage, injury, or loss of life or property.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Matthew was a Category 4 major hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, moving northwest at 14 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the storm center. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles from the storm center.
The hurricane has already caused devastation in the Caribbean, striking Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas. According to Associated Press reports, 11 deaths were blamed on the storm. The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Florida, turning north and passing just off the South Carolina coast late Friday or early Saturday.
Sampson County emergency control groups have been monitoring the hurricane and receiving morning and afternoon updates throughout this week.
“I anticipate that we will make the determination on shelter openings sometime after noon (Friday),” Assistant county manager Susan Holder said Thursday.
Other events that have been canceled or postponed include:
• The production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which was scheduled to open this weekend at the Sampson Community Theatre. With the hurricane’s uncertainty, theater officials have rescheduled opening night for Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. According to Bruce Caldwell, theater board member, the new schedule for performances is Oct. 13-15 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., for a total of five shows.
• Fall Market Day at Tractor Supply Company scheduled for Sunday has been postponed due to Hurricane Matthew, with a reschedule date to be announced.
• The local VFW community dinner scheduled for Saturday has been canceled due to the threat of inclement weather.
Sampson events are not the only ones to be called off. The first annual World Wide Hollerin’ Festival, originally scheduled for Saturday in Hope Mills, has been rescheduled to next month.
Sampson native Robby Goodman and former National Ladies Callin’ Champion Iris Turner organized the festival, which was slated for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday at Paradise Acres in Hope Mills. The date for the event has been pushed to Nov. 5. Admission is $3 per person, with children 5 years of age and under admitted for free.
Money raised will support Wags4Tags, which will receive 80 percent of the proceeds from the festival. The group unites soldiers who have post-traumatic stress disorder with trained dogs rescued from kill shelters “so that the two can heal in unconditional love, trust and loyalty,” the organization states on its website.
For more information, visit the festival’s website at www.WorldWideHollerinFestival.org and on Facebook by searching “World Wide Hollerin’ Festival.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.