The historic village of Rockford in southern Surry County usually is a sedate and uneventful place, but that will change Saturday when the annual Sweet Potato Festival is held there.
Now in its 20th year, the festival is planned in the area around Rockford General Store from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with admission free. It will feature live music, craft and other vendors, local authors, storytelling and even an appearance by a man known as the “Log Whisperer.”
The goal of the Sweet Potato Festival, which typically brings crowds to Rockford on a September Saturday each year, is an activity-filled event without the hassles accompanying similar gatherings elsewhere.
“It’s just kind of a small-town community festival where it’s not so big you get lost,” said Carolyn Carter, who is associated with Rockford General Store and has served as coordinator of the event for 13 years. Organizers seek to offer the kind of atmosphere in which festival-goers can meet old friends and make new ones.
“Of course, this is also the time when the North Carolina sweet potato gets harvested,” Carter added Thursday regarding the festival’s namesake.
The Tar Heel State is a major producer of that commodity and North Carolina’s official dessert is sweet potato pie.
In that vein, Saturday’s festival will offer many culinary delights with sweet potatoes as a base, including the aforementioned pie, sweet potato sonker (a kind of cobbler), cakes, sweet potato roll-ups, biscuits and even sweet potato coffee. That’s in addition to conventional items including country ham biscuits, chicken stew, pintos and corn bread.
Carter is excited about a return appearance to this year’s festival by the Log Whisperer, also known as Kevin Thomas.
“I call him our local celebrity,” she said of Thomas, a master carpenter of Dobson who gained that nickname due to his ability to give old log structures new life in a special way. This might include dismantling a tobacco barn and using the materials to construct gorgeous homes, among other projects.
Thomas has been featured in a public television segment and also in local-market TV coverage.
“He’s very well known in Surry County,” Carter said. “He’ll be here all day Saturday for a kind of meet-and-greet thing.”
Also, live music will be featured throughout the day on a big red porch serving as the festival stage, catering to a variety of tastes ranging from gospel to country. The slate of performers includes bluegrass and old-time musician R.G. Absher, The Stan Bobbitt Band, Kara Dunn and The Kinders.
Carter said about 15 to 20 vendors will be selling a wide array of locally produced crafts geared toward the unique, such as leather work, stone creations, folk art, woodwork — “all kinds of stuff.” As an example, she mentioned an exhibitor at last year’s festival who specializes in melting wine bottles to create items such as wind chimes.
A blacksmith also will be at the festival making various tools.
From Mount Airy, Rockford can be reached by taking U.S. 601 south to the stoplight at Dobson, then turning left onto Rockford Road. After traveling 3.5 miles to a red flashing traffic light at N.C. 268, motorists should go straight across that highway and remain on Rockford Road.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.