Family Festival Expected to Draw Large Crowds to Historic Town
BY JOHN CHAPPELL
This is the 22nd year of the Carthage Buggy Festival, -regularly cited as one of the top 20 such events across the South.
Mother's Day weekend brings travelers from every direction every May. The central section of the old town is home to a -number of restored homes echoing the grandeur of a lost era.
Visitors to Carthage coming from the Triad and Pottery Country will pass many a home built in bygone days like the Blacksmith Inn, a local bed and breakfast, before the old Carthage Courthouse comes into view as they reach The Old Buggy Inn, a restored Queen Anne-style "Painted Lady" with wraparound porch, fanciful gingerbread trim and the lavishness of that bygone era.
This 1880s home was once the residence of W.T. Jones, president of Tyson Jones Buggy Company. The festival harks back to the last half of the 19th and early decades of the 20th century when horse- and mule-drawn carriages were the way to travel.
In those days, hundreds of builders across North Carolina engaged in making carriages, buggies and wagons - almost exclusively for local markets, however. Almost all these firms were pretty small operations with one or two -workers.
Union Carriage Company - formed in 1878 by C. E. Jones, A. M. D. Williamson, S. W. Humber and Martin Clary - built -carriages in Carthage for a year or so until a fire led to their -moving the firm to Cameron, where it failed soon after the move.
R. A. McLaughlin built wagons in Carthage around 1877; so did Thomas Cole. Nearby Fayetteville had a baker's dozen buggy builders around the same time. They built carriages, barouches, buggies, sulkies, coaches, gigs and wagons of all kinds.
Few of these buggy builders were able to extend their marketing beyond their local areas and send their carriages across the state or into the rest of the country. Carthage, however, became home to one that grew into a principal supplier. It turned the little county seat into a manufacturing center.
In 1856, Thomas B. Tyson and a local landowner, Alexander Kelly, joined in a partnership with the plan to expand Tyson's work as a wheelwright into a bigger business building carriages. That original firm was known as Tyson & Kelly over its first couple of years of operation.
In 1857, Tyson hired William T. Jones to work for him and Kelly as a carriage painter and shop supervisor. Jones apparently more than proved his worth, and the enterprise expanded. In 1859, Jones joined Tyson and Kelly as a partner, and they changed the name of the firm to Tyson, Kelly & Company.
After 1873 its name changed again, this time to Tyson & Jones Buggy Company. The firm prospered and endured longer than most. Tyson & Jones had become one of the leading buggy builders in the United States by the time the growing popularity of automobiles led to its end in 1925.
Now buggy-building, once the lifeblood of Carthage, is banned by law, as is the keeping of horses inside the city limits. Manufacturing buggies is not a "permitted use" in the central business district of the town that was once Buggy City, USA.
Examples of Tyson & Jones handiwork, now prized collectibles, can to be seen in many places around Carthage. Keith Hardware sells brand-new buggies of all sorts to this day, though most of them are made in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.
Buggies do return to the streets of Carthage. Every year on Buggy Festival Saturday, owners park their antique two-seaters, buckboards, phaetons and even hearses by Courthouse Square. At 10 that morning, Doug Brown will begin offering buggy rides on Saturday from then to 3 p.m. at a cost of $2. This is a short ride to give visitors some idea of what travel was like 150 years ago. Buggy rides start in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church on Ray Street just across from the post office.
This year's Buggy Festival actually begins Friday, May 7, at Nancy Kiser Park with entertainment, music, food and an informal drive-in, drive-out gathering of classic cars and fire engines. The Carthage Firefighters Association will be hosting an antique firetruck show. Volunteers from the local fire department will be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. There also will be cold drinks on hand.
On the park's outdoor Stephen F. Lapping Amphitheater stage, young performers, members of the Temple Teens from Sanford's Temple Theatre, will entertain the Friday afternoon crowd starting at 5 p.m. The fun continues as always on Saturday, the day before Mother's Day, with a downtown platform full of music and streets filled with vendors of all sorts.
Peddlers of everything from homemade crafts, antiques, jewelry, pottery, plants, metal signs, wind chimes and suppliers of good things to eat will begin to fill the downtown streets of Carthage at 6 on Saturday morning.
The day officially begins at 9 a.m., heralded by the Marine Corps Drill Team and the Union Pines High School Band. After a welcome and opening remarks, the Courthouse Square 2010 Buggy Festival show is on with the Sandhills Teen Challenge Band to be followed by The Whisnets. Rev. Eugene Ussery, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Carthage, will serve as master of ceremonies throughout the day.
Vendors open their booths, the children's activity area opens where rides for kids, set up in a special section, are - as always - free.
At noon, Miss Moore County Charity Haskins crowns Ms./Mr. Buggy Festival, Mr. and Ms. Pinelake, and Mr. and Ms. Tara Plantation. The Quicksilver Cloggers clomp the stage at half past, followed by music from Mitzi Brooks at 1, Blue Horizon at 2, and a return by The Whisnets at 3 p.m.
The Sandhills Classic Street Road Association will have more than 150 cars and trucks on display on Dowd Street for its annual Benefit Classic Car and Truck Show. A collection of antique tractors also will be on display during the festival.
There are changes every year. There will be no street dance, and the barbecue cook-off fundraiser is off. The Arc of Moore County will not be holding its barbecue cook-off before the 2010 Buggy Festival. The Arc of Moore County is a nonprofit United Way organization providing services and support to children and adults with mental and other developmental disabilities, and their families. The Buggy Festival committee hopes people will continue to support this organization, which helped to spur an earlier launch of the festival.
The street dance of years past has been replaced with of the -festival's new final event at 4:30 p.m. - the seventh annual Buggy Festival Idol Contest, which brings the 2010 festival to its -climactic close.
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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