It’s a simple formula for success, really, but one sometimes overlooked, which relates to the awesome power of food.
The political strategist James Carville, a true Southerner, once made this profound statement: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, and you never know what you’ll find.” Yet I would argue that the currency of attraction in Surry County is food.
Not even truly exquisite food such as filet mignon, mind you, but the basic fare of hot dogs and candy.
Over and over, I’ve seen events around here become huge public attractions simply because those items were being offered for free.
I was expecting to witness this phenomenon unfold again today with a scheduled Easter egg hunt in Mount Airy, which was to go on rain or shine. That event usually attracts hundreds of people, and in my opinion the drawing card isn’t the thrill of the hunt or the joy of being trampled by other children in the mad rush to find eggs. It’s about the candy inside those plastic containers.
Even if threatening weather was so bad today that hiding them on the grounds of Westwood Park was hampered, organizers still planned to operate a drive-through service for kids to receive the eggs containing goodies.
I also observe this same obsession at play whenever a Christmas parade is held in Surry County. The temperature can be 10 degrees below zero with wind howling, snow falling — or all of the above — but children will still be lined up all along the streets to snatch up candy tossed by parade participants.
Just as the postman can be counted on to make his appointed rounds through all kinds of weather, kids are always at the parades scooping candy off the pavement like tiny vacuum cleaners. And doing so with the speed and precision of sand crabs skimming through surf at the beach.
I will admit that I’ve picked up candy during parades, especially when it lands right at my feet. I believe it is my civic duty to collect and consume such items littering the public thoroughfare to avoid candy being trampled by horses or squashed by flat-bed trailers.
My personal favorites are those miniature candy bars, such as Twix or Three Musketeers, which people also buy in bulk for Halloween, another time when kids hit Main Street to score free candy distributed by merchants.
Oh, I’m forgetting about that other prevailing currency of attraction locally, which similar to sugary candy is also a poster child for great nutrition: hot dogs.
I remember attending a National Night Out event several years ago in Pilot Mountain where people were lined up for practically the whole length of Main Street on an extremely hot evening. The attraction: free hot dogs being cooked on an open-air grill, which seemed to be drawing as many flies as people.
Again, I admit that I was one of the recipients of said hot dogs, because I learned as a child not to waste food — and consider it my responsibility to consume any that might otherwise go un-consumed.
Free hot dogs also helped draw a big crowd to downtown Mount Airy a couple of years ago when the restored antique Coke mural on a wall in Canteen Alley was dedicated. Not only did the Coca-Cola company pick up the tab for this, it appropriately provided free bottles of their product, which really raised the bar.
But they had me and many others at hot dogs, with the long line of eager recipients stretching from Main Street to the municipal parking lot on Franklin Street.
About five or six years ago, one of the local carport companies sponsored a racing-oriented event at Veterans Memorial Park featuring NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Junior Johnson. While the autograph line for them was pretty long, it was dwarfed by another that seemingly spanned the length of the park grounds — you guessed it, to receive free hot dogs.
Now the idea of food as a lure is nothing new, such as the old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” And the giving of treats is effective in making birds, or other animals, do daring things like jump through fiery hoops or sit on Rosie O’Donnell’s shoulder.
This also is the basis for free or reduced-price meals at schools under a theory that students might learn better when they’re not starving.
But remember that we’re talking about hot dogs here — products that come from meat-processing plants where people learn not to ask what’s in them.
Somehow they work in attracting crowds, though, and politicians and others desiring to win friends and influence people needn’t take a Dale Carnegie course. Just go to the nearest supermarket, buy the village-size pack of hot dogs and you’re good to go.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.