County celebrates 300th anniversary

Published 10:27 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

Craig Woolard, local celebrity beach musician, belts out one of his greatest hits at Beaufort County’s 300th anniversary celebration. (WDN Photo/Ashley Vansant)

It was a birthday party unlike any this region has known. Beaufort County turned 300 and thousands of people showed up for the festivities: history, music, food and fellowship, topped off by a performance by the North Carolina Symphony and fireworks over the Pamlico River.
“It’s really exciting to see the community come together for today’s celebration,” said Beaufort County Manager Randell Woodruff. “And it’s good entertainment.”
Blankets and umbrellas, coolers and lawn chairs dotted Festival Park, spaces on the lawn filling in as the day wore on. As the people came — in groups, in families, one by one — so did boats filled with revelers, finding dock space on the waterfront or anchorage on the river.
By the time the sun was setting over the Pamlico and the symphony’s musicians began to tune their instruments, Festival Park was standing room only.
“This is pretty major for a place like Washington,” said Washington resident Louis Taylor. “The fact (the symphony is) here for the 300th anniversary is quite a tribute.”
“This represents a real commitment on the part of the county government,” said the event’s emcee, Judge Wayland Sermons Jr.
Sermons pointed out dignitaries in the crowd and onstage with him: Betty Jo Shepheard, eastern representative for U.S. Senator Richard Burr, N.C. Senator Stan White, N.C. Representative Bill Cook, Sheriff Alan Jordan, District Attorney Seth Edwards, Beaufort County commissioners and Washington city councilmen.
“A county is only as good as the people who reside in it,” said Commission Chairman Jerry Langley, adding that this made Beaufort County one of the best.
“Three hundred years is a pretty big milestone,” said First District State Senator Stan White.
White explained that he tries to come to most events happening in the district, but hearing the 300th celebration was taking place on the waterfront made attending all the more enticing.
While the symphony drew the largest number of people, some, like Greenville’s Betti Ford, came specifically to hear hometown beach music notable Craig Woolard and his band blast out favorites with trombone, sax and trumpet.
“I like the symphony, but Craig is my favorite,” Ford said. “I got off from work and drove straight here.”
Earlier in day, from beneath Festival Park’s picnic shelter, poet and author Felicia Albritton rolled out lines of lyrical poetry to a receptive audience. Voices of Praise, a praise band from Greenville’s Divine Anointed Church International, had the crowd waving hands with their contemporary gospel music. Speakers told of Beaufort County’s history through impressions and contributions from the African-American community; others, in period costume, presented the county’s history through demonstrations of colonial games and chores.
Washington churches supplied the masses with: homemade ice cream and French fries from the First Christian Church; St. Peter’s Episcopal Church with pimiento and chicken salad sandwiches. Minges Bottling Group donated soft drinks and water, given away from their Pepsi Cart.
But it was when night fell and lights rose in the tented stage surrounding the North Carolina Symphony that the quiet crowd became a part of the 300-year celebration, as each person sitting, standing, in Festival Park listened to the music. And in doing so became another part of Beaufort County history.