Back to its roots

Published 12:14 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

By Staff
It’s about time.
The Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce say it is working hard to return the Summer Festival to its roots. Good for the festival organizers.
The 25th version of the Summer Festival is set for June 13-14 on Washington’s waterfront. From what festival organizers are saying, this year’s festival will include several things to help the return of Washington’s signature events to its roots.
During the past 20 years, the festival has moved from a county-fair type event to the atmosphere of a professional carnival, not that there’s anything wrong with a carnival. In the festival’s early years, the great majority of the food sold during the festival, a three-day event in those days, was sold by groups and organizations such as Pamlico Pals, the Jaycees, Beaufort County Grange and area churches. They used that money to help pay for projects that benefited the community. That meant money spent by people at the festival stayed in the area. These days, the professionals who sell funnel cakes, Polish sausages and lemonade take that money out of the area when they pack up and leave after the festival ends.
There was a time when booth after booth along Stewart Parkway featured area residents selling popcorn, pizza, soft drinks, fish plates, barbecue plates, chicken plates, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and ice cream. Buyers tended to spend a little more time at those booths as they chatted and socialized with the vendors, many of them neighbors or co-workers of the buyers. More than money was exchanged at those booths.
In recent years, about the only things exchanged at vendors’ booths were goods, money and some “Have a nice day” remarks.
There was a time when someone could walk along Stewart Parkway and buy a slice of pizza from Pamlico Pals, popcorn from the Jaycees, an ice-cold lemonade from the Kiwanis booth and know that money would be used to help at-risk youth, put on the Christmas parade and sponsor a soccer program in the community.
Those three-day Summer Festivals were major fundraising events for many area nonprofit groups, churches and other organizations. Festival-goers knew that. They were more than happy to buy an extra burger, hot dog or snow cone because they knew their money would be returned to the community in the form of scholarships, mentoring programs and the like.
As much fun as carnival-type events provide, a family oriented Summer Festival would be even better. The chamber is making the right move in returning the Summer Festival to its roots.
It’s a move that deserves the community’s support.