Sardine Festival: It's In the Can
The Annual Sardine Festival is back home Friday at the Lake Park in Aberdeen.
Last year's Sardine Festival had to be relocated to the Malcom Blue Farm due to the construction of a new building at the Lake Park. Now, the festival is back where it started 16 years ago.
The festival is Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"It's that time of year, when the citizens of Moore County gather in Aberdeen to honor the lowly sardine," said one of the organizers, Don McClusky.
McClusky likes to joke that the sardines are home-grown, right in Lake Aberdeen.
"The town of Aberdeen put a new aerator in the lake to increase oxygen for the sardines," McClusky said. "This has been so successful that the sardines have [grown] to the point that they will not fit into the cans. We will either have to get larger cans or cut the sardines in smaller pieces.
"They aren't that hard to catch."
In actuality, the Sardine Festival Committee, which meets every morning at Bojangles', bought 45 cases of Port Clyde sardines, 1,000 MoonPies, tons of sodas and dozens of bottles of vinegar, mustard, ketchup and hot sauce.
The new parks and recreation building should be able to help accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd. Though the forecast calls for some rain, organizers think that they could easily see 600 to 700 people. Over 500 attended the event last year at the Blue Farm. The festival is open to anyone.
The Sardine Festival was born 16 years ago when builder Randall Moss' daughter forced him to eat his sardine lunch across the street in the park because she couldn't stand the smell. Moss invited his friends to join him and, just like that, a festival was born.
What started as a joke all those years ago has grown to become one of the most popular annual community events in Moore County. One of the reasons people seem to like it is that it doesn't take itself seriously.
Each year at noon, the new "Sardine Queen" is paraded in, surrounded by her loyal subjects, former queens themselves, to address the crowd.
Last year's queen was Karen Pike. Other past queens include Grace Brigman, Linda Boles Parks, Heather Brown, Nancy Oakley, Laura Phillips, Dolores Richardson, Mary McGee, Betty Upchurch and Carol Gelfo.
The Queen Committee has selected this year's Sardine Queen, but McClusky would not reveal her identity.
Hundreds of revelers come every year to enjoy the fish, crackers, MoonPies, RC Colas and the temperate North Carolina October air. The food is free, but people are encouraged to make donations or buy T-shirts and hats.
Proceeds go to support youth athletic programs in Aberdeen and other parts of Moore County.
This is the first year that Moss himself is not going to chair the festival. Southern Pines businessman Jamie Boles, Republican nominee for state House of Representatives, has organized and promoted this year's festival.
"It's a good cause," Boles said. "It's one big joke. It's just a big-fish story. But the bottom line is it all goes to the children.
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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