Carthage Geared Up for Big Buggy Festival
The county seat is more than ready for the town's yearly party, the Carthage Buggy Festival.
It is held each year to commemorate the famous Tyson and Jones Buggy Factory that produced the carriages that were essential to life in rural North Carolina.
The 20th annual festival begins this evening and continues all day Saturday.
The idea for the festival grew out of the town's search for a way to commemorate its long history. While Carthage got its town charter in 1796 when George Washington was president, the phaetons, broughams, rockaways and other horse-drawn carriages Tyson and Jones turned out from the mid-1800s to the 1920s seemed an apt and visible way to represent Carthage.
Everything starts at 6 p.m. today, when the Arc of Moore County Barbecue Cook-off begins at Nancy Kiser Park. The volunteer fire department will be grilling franks and burgers down by the park stage. There will be live music.
On Saturday, more than 100 food and craft vendors will fill streets around the historic Courthouse from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. A stage is set up on the new courthouse steps to host to a variety of entertainment, including cloggers and bands playing gospel, country, and southern rock music.
Admission to the festival is free of charge. A children's area features rides and games -- all free. This year, that features a huge double slide in the shape of a sinking Titanic apparently disappearing into the pavement.
There are a few rules: no alcohol consumption of any kind and no animals. Service dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs are allowed. Skates and skateboards are prohibited.
Buggy rides are offered along residential streets adjacent to the Buggy Festival.
There are plenty of wheels to view: antique buggies that can include old hearses, doctor's buggies, conestogas, buckboards -- and a sea of classic "rods" at the Sandhills Classic Hotrod Association's annual charity car show. This year, the show is raising money to help the Carthage Food Bank and Teen Challenge with raffles and entry fees.
Festival visitors will also be able to learn more about the history of Carthage, its residents and its buggies by stopping in at the Carthage Historical Museum on the corner by the park. It will be open today from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A new feature this year is the Battleship North Carolina Replica. It is a model of the fast battleship North Carolina that fought in every major naval offensive in the Pacific during World War II. Six times during the war, Japan claimed it had been sunk, but the ship survived. It was decommissioned in 1947 and moved to Wilmington as a museum.
Last Sunday, the newest vessel to bear the state's name was commissioned there, a nuclear submarine -- and this replica was on hand for the ceremony. It will be on display from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday at the festival.
Police Chief Chris McKenzie has one ride he would like every licensed driver to try. He calls it a "seat belt convincer." It is a chance to experience -- safely -- just what even a low speed crash feels like, all while safely harnessed.
Barbecue Cook-off chefs will stay up all night. Barbecue from the night's cook-off, blended and packed following the morning judging and prizes, will be for sale at a downtown booth. It helps raise money to support The Arc of Moore County.
"Ms. Buggy Festival" is crowned on Saturday during the festivities. "Ms. Buggy Festival" is nominated by children at Carthage Elementary School. Children in kindergarten through fifth grades write letters about why their mom, grandma, aunt and others should be chosen as Ms. Buggy Festival. A winner and five runners-up are chosen and the students read their letters at the festival.
"We've even had a 'Mr.' Buggy Festival," Town Manager Carol Sparks says. "Mr. and Mrs. Pinelake Nursing Home and Mr. and Mrs. Tara Plantation Retirement Home are also crowned."
Not all the entertainers are professionals. Some of the most popular can be very young.
"This year we will be searching for the fifth Carthage Buggy Festival Idol," Sparks says. "Winners receive $250 and the opportunity to sing with the band at the street dance that night."
The Buggy Festival Idol contest starts at 5 p.m., followed by the street dance and dancing under the stars until 11 p.m.
Contact John Chappell at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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