ORRUM — Dozens of children and adults jumped into canoes on Saturday to try out the dark waters of the Lumber River at the eighth annual Lumber River Day Festival, a day to celebrate the river and the state park that showcases it.
An estimated 600 came to the Lumber River State Park at Princess Ann to enjoy food, music, exhibits, canoe rides and more. For some, it was a novel experience and for others, an annual event.
“It’s not salty,” said Holland Bosma, from Mobile, Ala., who paddled with her sister, McLean, and attended with their grandmother, Marion Thompson of Lumberton.
“This is the first time in a canoe for them,” Thompson said.
Ronnie Russ, who hopped into a canoe with his grandchildren, said he comes to Lumber River Day every year.
“I’m from Bladenboro, only 15 miles away, and we look forward to this every year,” Russ said. “This is a beautiful place.”
Ciena Fedor, who is the newly-crowned Miss North Carolina Native American Youth Organization, participated in the opening ceremonies and offered a sweeping view of the 133-mile-long river, which extends downstream from the Scotland County-Hoke County border to the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
“The Lumber River is a way of life for our people,” Fedor said. “The water provided healing, baptisms, transportation, fishing and recreation.”
Lumber River Day was about recreation for Donald Harrelson of Hallsboro. He wanted to try out his new paddleboard in the river.
“I’ve been using it on my pond and wanted to try it out in the river,” Harrelson said. “It’s great exercise.”
Denise Parker of Lumberton brought her 8-year-old daughter, got her face painted, a train ride and jumped into a bouncy house.
“This is my first time at this event,” Parker said. “It’s a nice festival for children.”
Chelsea Bostelman of Fayetteville was watching her daughter, Klara, participate in the one of the children’s games. The Bostelmans are on a mission to see all 42 of North Carolina’s state parks.
“We’re doing the State Park Passport Program,” Bostelman said. “The Lumber River State Park is our 22nd so far.”
The program has caught on said Brantly Bowen, a park ranger.
“We’ve had people come with with as few as five parks to go,” he said.
Several exhibits offered information about wildlife of the Lumber River. Ranger Bowen brought his pet corn snake and it charmed Nicole Spence of Lumberton and Indian McLean of Orrum.
“She’s beautiful,” Spence said.
Many questions followed.
Jim Caulder and the Bluegrass Misfits, who are regulars at Lumber River Day, played in front of a good-sized gathering. With a dozen or so musicians, they took turns playing and singing.
Caulder joined Clyde Garrett of Fayetteville singing a rendition of “The Friday Night Blues.”
“George Fastien is up next,” Caulder said. “He’s from Myrtle Beach and has a great voice. Then, Jesse Lewis of Athens, Tenn., plays.”
Others like Arnold West and Colin Osbourn, both of Lumberton, are outdoor enthusiasts and came to support the Lumber River State Park.
North Carolina Sen. Danny Britt, who represents Robeson and Columbus counties, also came out to support the part and Lumber River Day.
Park Superintendent Neill Lee, who organized the event, called it “a fun day” even as temperatures approaching triple-digits delivered a heat advisory.
“There was a great breeze keeping us cool, and everyone had a good time,” Lee said. “We had something for everyone.”
The river was designated in 1989 as a Natural and Scenic River by the General Assembly, and is the only blackwater river in North Carolina to be designated as a National Wild and Scenic River by the Department of the Interior. In 2010, the Lumber River was voted one of North Carolina’s Ten Natural Wonders.