Event-filled week an economic boost

Published 7:17 pm Monday, October 13, 2014

Three signature Washington events come together this week to give residents and visitors alike a true eastern North Carolina experience.

The Beaufort County Arts Council’s 50th annual Fine Arts Show launches festivities on Wednesday night with an opening reception at the Washington Civic Center, will be followed by the kickoff for Washington (noon) Rotary’s annual barbecue competition, Smoke on the Water, and the last Music in the Streets of the season Friday evening.

The three events, all enjoyed separately, will combine for several days of entertainment, good food and events, and it’s the diversity that appeals to a wide audience. That equates to a benefit for all of Washington, according to local officials.

“I just think that they’re all great, because they’re boosts to our economy and anytime we can bring in people form outside, it’s great,” said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

“Not only do these two events attract people to our community, which is always nice, they showcase the diversity of what is available for people to see and enjoy here,” said Lynn Wingate, director of Washington’s Tourism Development Authority.

For Joey Toler, executive director of BCAC, the Fine Arts Show is a longstanding tradition, but when it came apparent the show would pair better with Smoke on the Water, rather than Washington’s Summer Festival, BCAC promptly moved the date.

“It’s worked out very well. It just seems to be a better time of year, it’s not so hot and it’s big compliment to that festival and the festival is also a big compliment to our art show,” Toler said. “The two seem to integrate very well.”

The Fine Arts Show opens with a reception for BCAC members, artists and guests Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Washington Civic Center. Prior to that, a guaranteed sales event opens at 7 p.m., for those pre-registered to get the first glimpse of this year’s offerings. While the arts council may have moved to the Turnage Theater down Main Street, Toler pointed out that the arts show will remain at the civic center.

“Our gallery at the Turnage is just too small to accommodate all the art,” Toler said. “So the show is now an off-site event for us, which offers its own set of new challenges.”

All show entries will be on display and open to the public Thursday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and this year’s juror, East Carolina University School of Art and Design Director Michael Drought, will give a juror’s critique of the winning entries Friday at 7 p.m. The critique is free and open to the public.

Friday, a “Pig Parade” down Main Street will kick off both SOTW and Music in the Streets at 6 p.m., the waterfront fills with pig cookers, barbecue chefs and their decorated tents, and musicians and music lovers line Main Street. Saturday offers more waterfront events: a chili cook off, fire truck pull, artisans and vendors, classic car show and more, but it’s a new event that has many people planning a trip to the waterfront for more than barbecue: dragoon boat racing. Six teams of 22 will take to the water, each team member armed with a paddle, to establish Pamlico River dominance in the fastest-growing team sport in the world.

It’s an event-packed couple of days, and for those who work to bring people, and their money, to Washington, the three events are a winning combination.

“They are getting the best of both worlds regardless of what brought them here,” Wingate said.

But none of these events could happen without the help of a small army of volunteers who are just dedicated to raising Washington’s status as a tourist destination.

“All of these events take so much time and so many hours and people need to really stop and thank those people, because it’s an act of love,” Glover said. “They don’t get a lot of praise and they should.”

For more information, look for the Smoke on the Water guide in Thursday’s Washington Daily News.