First in a series
Even though Clinton and Sampson County are still in the throes of late August mugginess, it will be just a matter of time before another cool October rolls around, and with it the city of Clinton’s 26th annual Court Square Street Fair and 19th annual Court Square Barbecue Cook-Off.
An annual event that brings a wide spectrum of barbecue, baked goods, antique cars and handmade crafts, along with a fair share of bouncy rides, to downtown Clinton — as well as thousands from Sampson and surrounding counties — will be offering much more this year. With that, so will the Sampson Independent, which will provide stories on various aspects of the event leading up to the festivities.
Those festivities will begin Friday, Oct. 12, with live music, and continue with the fair and its plethora of offerings Saturday, Oct. 13. Thanks to several new partnerships and the strengthening of several existing ones, “the event will be even bigger and better this year,” spanning two days, organizers said.
“The number of partnering organizations and activities have increased this year and we are looking forward to a very positive community event which will offer something for all ages and interests,” said Clinton-Sampson planning director Mary Rose.
The Clinton Main Street Program is coordinating the event in partnership with Sampson Regional Medical Center, the Sampson Arts Council, Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP), the Sampson County History Museum, the Downtown Dash 5k Committee, the Ol’ Lightnin’ Rods Car Club and the city of Clinton. While the majority of planning for the event has traditionally been done by city planning staff, a steering committee was formed to assist this year.
“I am thrilled that we have been able to work closely with the steering committee to coordinate all of these events to grow the street fair into a two-day affair,” said planner Audrey Whetten. “It has been a great group to work with, and I look forward to continuing to build the partnerships, both new and old, that make the street fair possible.”
The fun starts on Friday evening this year, with a new event featuring live, local music on the court square from 6-9 p.m. While acts will be announced soon, attendees are invited to bring their lawn chairs to Main Street to enjoy the music, similar to Alive After Five. Not long after the music dies down, people are encouraged to come back downtown.
Activity on the Court Square begins bright and early the next morning, with bake-off registration on Main Street from 8-9 a.m. However, it’s not all about baked goods, as the first-ever Downtown Dash 5k & Fun Run will start at 8:30 a.m. from the new Vance Street parking lot. The second annual Care Fair will be held at the Center for Health and Wellness from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
“With such success with our first annual Care Fair last year on the same day as the city’s event, the hospital and City of Clinton wanted to collaborate more this year to cross-promote events and incorporate the hospital’s Care Fair into the downtown events,” said Amber Cava, vice president for marketing and community relations for Sampson Regional Medical Center. “We’re pleased and excited to be a part of it.”
Along with the live music and the 5k race, a Volksmarch will be another new addition to the October festivities.
Registration for the Volksmarch, a 10k walk brought to Clinton by a statewide organization, will be open from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Main Street. The BCCCP’s annual rally will begin on the Main Street side of the Sampson County Courthouse at 9:30 a.m. and, as it always does, will proceed down College Street and end at First Baptist Church, 900 College St., where it will continue until 12 p.m.
While there are many new events and activities to occupy anyone, the old favorites will be very much present.
As always, the fair will feature free children’s rides as well as a variety of local entertainment and handmade crafts. The Court Square Bake-Off will include competitions in the breads, cakes, pies/cobblers, and candy/brownies/cookies categories. The Barbecue Cook-Off will have individual and corporate competitions this year. Gold sponsors for the cook-off are Murphy-Brown, Prestage Farms and Smithfield Foods, while silver sponsors are Hog Slat and Williamson Gas Co. Others are urged to participate. For more information, contact Betty Holland at 910-299-4904.
After the successful sidewalk chalk art contest last year, the Sampson Arts Council is expanding the arts section this year with a variety of art-related activities in the park and parking lot by the new “Milling Around” art piece.
The fair will wind its way up Lisbon Street to the Clinton City Market, where the Ol’ Lightnin’ Rods Antique Car Show will be held. Participants may register their cars until 12 p.m. that Saturday at the City Market. As usual, Oldies 1170 will be on hand, broadcasting live with Bob Stroud and the Boogie Shoes Network.
Just past the City Market, the Sampson County History Museum Craft Demonstration Day, sponsored in part by the North Carolina Arts Council, will provide fair-goers with a variety of free demonstrations and exhibits from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Organizers said 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.
“We’re just happy to be able to promote each other and have everything in one place so people can enjoy it,” said Cava. “With some additions to the event this year, the committee is really hoping to grow attendance and draw people in from all over the county.”
More than just festivities, the collaboration through a single event is about establishing relationships between people and groups in the community.
“Strong partnerships are being built with this event,” said Rose, “from sponsors, participating organizations and the Steering Committee to the citizens of Clinton, Sampson and surrounding areas whose attendance and enjoyment make all the planning efforts so worthwhile.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.