Wanted: A Tilt-A-Whirl or a circus elephant

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bring back the Beaufort County Fair and the annual visit by the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars to Washington.

I recall a time about 25 years ago when both were available, one in the spring the other in the fall. To be sure, the Beaufort County Fair could not compare to the N.C. State Fair, but it was a fair. Being a fair, that meant candied apples, foot-long hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn and pizza were abundant. The pizza was sold, by the slice, by the Washington Jaycees to help raise funds for the organization’s projects and programs.

Joining me at the Jaycees’ pizza booth during those times were folks like Tommy Swanner, the CPA; Stan Deatherage, a future Beaufort County commissioner; Butch Weston, then the circulation director at the Washington Daily News; Walker Lynch, owner of Bragaw & Co.; and Russell Woolard, a future WDN employee and now a juggernaut of technical writing for a company just outside Washington, D.C. Seems like we used a walkie-talkie, or something similar, to relay our orders to Domino’s Pizza. A few minutes later, the delivery person would drop off the pizzas at the Jaycee booth.

OK, I’ll admit it. We probably ate as much pizza as we sold. After the first free slice per Jaycee, we paid for each slice.

Unless the booth was busy, each of us could slip away for a few minutes and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the fair. One sight you could count on was the visit by then-Sheriff Nelson Sheppard, making sure everything at the fair was as it should be — no one getting ripped off at the games of chance. Besides, during an election year, the fair was a great place to campaign.

During my time away from the pizza booth, I would scout the fairgrounds for the ride of all rides — the Tilt-A-Whirl. The older the Tilt-A-Whirl, the better the ride. Older Tilt-A-Whirls are not as “stiff” as newer ones, therefore providing an unforgettable ride. The best Tilt-A-Whirl that I ever came across was the one that used to be situated at The Circle at Atlantic Beach.

All I needed for an enjoyable fair experience was a Tilt-A-Whirl and a foot-long hot dog — all the way. By the way, the all-the-way foot-long hot dog must come after the Tilt-A-Whirl. Trust me on this.

Back in the day, the Jaycees were instrumental in bringing the circus to the area.

One spring, the circus promoted itself by having elephant races on Stewart Parkway. It’s true. I was there. No, I was not one of the elephants.

Bruce Radford, then the city manager, raced another area official. I want to say it was Don Davenport, then the county manager, who raced Radford. Elephants can move when they want to, and on that day those two elephants wanted to move — fast. With their human cargo aboard, the elephants thundered down the parkway. For some reason, all those Tarzan movies with the charging elephants came to mind that day.

At the 7 p.m. show that evening, I was given the honor of riding an elephant during the parade that was part of the circus. Elephants are hairy. Riding an elephant is akin to sliding back and forth on sandpaper. Trust me on this.

As with a Tilt-A-Whirl, the all-the-way foot-long hot dog comes after the elephant ride.

Anyone know where I can buy a Tilt-A-Whirl?


Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He’s learned that if you don’t eat an all-the-way foot-long hot dog before you ride a Tilt-A-Whirl, you also don’t eat chili before going out for a summer afternoon of deep-sea fishing on choppy seas.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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