The Carthage Board of Commissioners on Monday said it would consider canceling the 32nd annual Buggy Festival, the town’s signature event, to prevent the potential spread of the new coronavirus.
It would perhaps be the most significant cancellation announced in Moore County in response to the pandemic. Held every year since 1989, the festival normally attracts about 20,000 people from across the region.
“We’ve already reserved all the entertainment and attractions for the kids,” said Dorothy Dutton, the town clerk. “We still have vendor spaces, but either vendors aren’t going to sign up at all now because of (the coronavirus) or they won’t make any money if they set up, and I’d hate to waste their time as well.”
Earlier on Monday, the commissioners approved a resolution declaring a state of emergency in Carthage. With similar decelerations already in place for the county and state, Commissioner Milton Dowdy Jr. suggested the cancellation could be inevitable.
“If they canceled the NBA and all these other big events for a whole season, it might be proactive,” Dowdy said. “We have to face reality and make the call.”
The festival commemorates the Tyson and Jones Buggy Factory, a carriage manufacturer that put Carthage on the map in the late 1800s. Antique buggies are traditionally displayed in downtown Carthage during the event.
Other Buggy Festival staples include the Classic Car and Truck Show, touted as one of the region’s largest exhibitions of vintage vehicles, and the crowning of the festival’s king and queen by Peak Resources Pinelake, a local assisted living facility.
Several area breweries and vineyards participated in last year’s festival, ending the event’s three-decade prohibition on spirits. Attendees were also allowed to bring their dogs for the first time in the festival’s history.
Also on Monday, the Carthage Board of Commissioners voted to buy automatic flushers to address complaints about stale water in the town.
Tom Robinson, the town manager, said the 10 flushers should “remedy most of the issues we have with the water system.” The devices will cost about $30,000, with the money being appropriated from the town’s retained earnings for water and sewer services.
“We have searched for the availability of grant funds, but it looks like the town just needs to go ahead and purchase and install the flushers,” Robinson said, adding that the flushers will be installed on dead-end lines and in areas where “water does not turn over as quickly as desired.”
Later during Monday’s board meeting, the commissioners voted to buy a new tractor and “bush hog” apparatus. Robinson said the $90,000 machine will replace a “very old and underpowered” tractor without air conditioning.
“This tractor will allow our Public Works Department to cut grass quicker and more extensively, and it will facilitate cutting grass even in the hottest summer weather,” he said.
Allen Smith, the town’s Public Services director, said the new machine will “free up at least three people” in his department. The purchase will be financed over a three-year period.
In other business on Monday, the commissioners:
• Announced that Kimberly Gibson, a Carthage resident, has been hired to replace Dina Mayes as the town’s front-office customer services specialist.
• Voted to buy Carthage-themed lapel pins that can be worn by town representatives and sold to residents.
Additional news from Monday’s meeting will appear later on ThePilot.com and in Sunday’s issue of the newspaper.