Big Crowd Expected for Sardine Festival Friday
- Eating sardines and crackers 37%
- Drinking RC Cola or other sodas 7%
- Eating moon pies 37%
- Watching the Crowning of the Sardine Queen 0%
- Sharing fish tales with friends and other festival attendees 7%
- Getting the cool collectible shirts and hats 13%
30 total votes.
Thousands are expected to pack into Aberdeen Lake Park Friday — like sardines — for the 19th annual Sardine Festival.
The event, which started out as a joke, celebrates food, fun and fellowship.
“It’s about old faces, smiles and seeing friends that you haven’t seen in years,” said Robbie Farrell, this year’s emcee. “It’s like homecoming.”
Attendees will scarf down sardines, saltines, sodas and moon pies during the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We had over 1,500 cans of sardines eaten last year, and this year we have even more,” said Jamie Boles, chairman of the Sardine Festival Committee. “We also have more than 1,000 moon pies and more than 1,100 sodas.”
The food is free, but attendees are encouraged to make donations or purchase T-shirts and hats to commemorate the festival, with proceeds going to local organizations that benefit youths.
Last year, the event raised $2,500, which was donated to local youth organizations, including local Boy Scouts and a local little league team.
The festival committee, which meets every morning at Bojangles’, consults with the Sardine Queen from the prior year to decide where to donate proceeds, according to Boles.
“Last year, we sold every piece of merchandise we had, even the ones that were five years old,” said Boles, who also serves as Moore County’s state representative. “So this year, everything is all new.”
And as to the value of the shirts, Bole said jokingly that the 10th anniversary shirt sold on eBay for $200.
“They are getting very valuable,” he said with a smile.
One of the annual highlights of the event is the crowning of the Sardine Queen. Each year at noon, the new queen rides into the festival on a town firetruck, surrounded by her loyal subjects and former queens themselves to address the crowd. Frances Broeils is the reigning queen.
Past queens include Susan Jordan McNeill, Terry Jo Combs, Karen Pike, Grace Brigman, Linda Boles Parks, Heather Brown, Nancy Oakley, Laura Phillips, Dolores Richardson, Mary McGee, Betty Upchurch and Carol Gelfo.
This year’s event will feature the music of the Bluegrass Tarheels from Carthage.
As for anything new this year, Boles isn’t showing his hand, other than to invite everyone out to the event.
“There’s always something new,” Boles said. “You’ll just have to be there to find out what it is.”
Aberdeen Town Manager Bill Zell remembers his first Sardine Festival. New to the job, he was sitting in his office back in 2003, when Farrell rushed into his office and asked him what he was doing.
“He said, “Why are you not at the Sardine Festival?’” Zell said.
Farrell rousted Zell from his office, and the two went to the festival. Zell, who admitted he had doubts about the festival, is now a regular.
This year’s emcee says he has a long history with sardines.
“I used to watch my father eat them, and I never understood how he did it,” Farrell said. “I’ll eat one when I’m there, but moon pies are really my favorite.”
The late Randall Moss started the festival as a joke. One day, his daughter forced him to eat his sardine lunch across the highway from his office at Aberdeen Lake Park because she couldn’t stand the smell. Moss invited his friends to join him and, just like that, a festival was born.
Moss died in March 2010, but the festival, which has become one of the most popular annual events in Moore County, is still going strong, thanks to a simple philosophy focusing on fun, fellowship and a concern for others.
“It seems like it gets bigger every year,” Zell said. “It’s really just a big party in Aberdeen.”
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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