Some events downtown go off without a hitch. FarmFest 2018 certainly wasn’t one of them.
In addition to the “hitches” found on the farm vehicles in Friday’s Tractor Parade, this year’s edition was plagued by rain from beginning to end.
Originally scheduled for May 18-19, downpours and flash floods on the first day and forecasts for more of the same on the second day caused the festival to be postponed for a week.
On the second attempt, Friday’s Tractor Parade came off without a hitch on Friday under bright sun, but rain threatened all day Saturday until the skies opened up about 2 p.m. when it poured buckets, causing a scheduled watermelon seed spitting contest to be delayed for an hour until it was finally held on the sidewalk under a store awning.
During the cloudburst, while most FarmFest attendees found a store awning to huddle underneath or a store to shop in, the band of jammers playing under an awning kept right on playing. Plastic trash bags covered the sprakers and as much of the electrical equipment as possible, but, much like the orchestra on The Titanic, the band kept on playing regardless of the overabundance of water. A musician would occasionally grab a rag to wash the water off an instrument or poke accumumulated water off the awning, but the music went on.
On the previous day, the second half of Friday’s tractor parade when children take to the street in their vehicles was the biggest yet, according to Gail Hiatt, owner of Mt. Airy Tractor Co. Toyland and an event organizer.
“They love it,” she said. “Any child capable of navigating any kind of vehicle is welcomed, and they love it.”
“Every child who participates receives a ribbon, and I handed out 50 ribbons, but there might have been more kids than that,” said Hiatt.
Jennie Lowry, of the Downtown Business Association and an event helper, concurred that it was the largest crowd yet for that event.
At 10 a.m. Saturday morning when FarmFest had been under way for an hour, Corporal Barry Robertson of the Mount Airy Police Department said the crowd looked “spot on” for the time of day and considering the rain expected later in the day.
Tanner Michael, age 12, who has just moved to Mount Airy from Raleigh and will be attending Mount Airy Middle School in the fall, brought her best friend Kate Deaton, also 12, from Raleigh to FarmFest.
The girls availed themselves of an opportunity to milk a real live cow named Burnt Palm, who is half Holstein and half Brown Swiss, according to her owner, who said she was supposed to be a brown cow, but is almost black and therefore must have been overcooked. As her dam is called Palm, she is known as Burnt Palm.
Regardless of the cow’s clever name, the girls didn’t care much for milking.
“It felt weird,” said Kate.
“It felt bad,” said Tanner.
In addition to the cows and ponies at FarmFest, there was at least one farm animal attending the festival without being a part of it.
Piggy, a 50-pound Juliana pig, was walking around on a leash with her owner Emily Goad, of Laurel Fork, Virginia. Children were charmed by the friendly pig and gleefully fed her watermelon rinds while Goad talked to strangers who asked her about Piggy.
“She’s full grown, but I have to watch what she eats. She’ll keep eating and growing if I let her. That’s how pigs work.”
Asked by a bystander if Piggy had ever eaten bacon, Goad admitted that she had accidentally had some bacon.
“Everybody likes pig,” she said. “Even pigs.”
Janice Woods, contemplating a pig on a leash, said, in Greensboro where she lives, “pig on a stick” is more common than “pig on a leash.” Woods added, “Chopped up, with lots of hot sauce, is the best use of a pig.”
Trophies were awarded to tractors for achievement in six categories.
“Best of Show” went to Grey Cain’s 1940 John Deere tractor. The “Oldest” tractor present was a 1932 Farmall owned by Charlie Newman. Judy Jessup’s 1955 640 Ford tractor was named “Best Restoration.” A 1952 Farmall owned by Max Leonard was “Hardest Worked.” “Most Original” honors went to Charlie Newman for his 1936 F30 Farmall. The “People’s Choice” award went to Guy McMillian for his 1952 8N Ford.
Lawn mowers were judged in four categories.
“Best of Show” went to Buck Roberts for his 1964 Cub Cadet. The award for “Oldest” lawn mower went to Savannah Allen for a 1959 Continental. “Most Original” honors went to a 1970 Cub Cadet owned by Ricky Weatherman. Susan Weatherman won “Best Restoration” with a 1960 Wheelhorse.
An appreciation award was presented to blacksmith Joe Allen.
As for the watermelon seeds:
Eight-year old Rose Kirkman took the blue ribbon in the children’s division with a nice long spit. (Spitting distances were not measured but judged visually.) Other participants in the children’s division were Rickie Caudill, (age 6), Madeline Caudill, (age 9), Layla Koons, James Caudill (age 11), Lily Kirkman, (age 10) and Katlin Hince, (age 11).
Randy Holt won the adult blue ribbon. Holt is a regular competitor and took second place last year. Sylvia Lowry and Victor Koons also participated. Second place was taken by Koons, whose wife attributed his skill to the fact that he uses dip.
“You don’t spit dip that far,” said Koons. “Or you shouldn’t.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.