LUMBERTON — Saturday’s Rumba on the Lumber events weren’t all about fitness. For those in attendance, the 14th annual festival was about fun, family and, in some cases, funnel cake.
A slight chance of rain didn’t damper the day, which kicked off with the Southeastern Health Family Fun Mile.
For 6-year-old Josie, who was running for the first time, the course was “a little hard,” but worth it for the chocolate-covered banana she got after crossing the finish line.
Josie, along with her mom and little sister, came down from Chapel Hill just for the festival and to spend time with her aunt, a Lumberton resident, and grandparents, who live in Fairmont.
“My parents are here, my nieces, the whole family’s out to have fun,” said Bonnie West, a former trainer who is now a supervisor at the Southeastern Lifestyle Fitness Center.
“Two years ago they were going to come and it rained … this year they decided to come no matter what,” West said.
West ran the Family Fun Mile with the girls in tow before enjoying the vendors lined up along Third Street.
“It’s good to get some exercise and hang out at the same time,” she said.
Josie said she was most looking forward to “the bouncy circle things” — trampolines rigged with harnesses and bungee cords set up in the downtown plaza, which for the day became the Lumbee River EMC Kidz Zone.
“That’s a stomach ache waiting to happen,” West said as Josie munched her banana and her little sister, who in pink cowboy boots, didn’t run, enjoyed a chocolate-covered hunk of cookie dough.
Ten-year-old friends and running partners Taylor Pait, Lacy Rozier and Haley George, put grown-ups to shame running in the big kids race — the Southeastern Health 5K.
After training around the neighborhood, the race was a piece of cake.
“We go around and we run three miles,” Rozier said. The girls, who were most excited for the race and the trampolines, planned to run together with their moms.
Rozier had Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan queued up on her pink iPod to motivate her along the 3.1-mile course.
“It’s country music but it’s good exercise music,” Rozier said.
Joann Anderson, president and CEO of Southeastern Health, which sponsors the festival, said getting fit is half the fun for those in attendance.
“It shows them that getting up and moving can be fun, whether you’re participating in one of the races or climbing the rock wall. Even the Kidz Zone, its getting people up and moving,” she said.
But, the race isn’t just good for the heart, Anderson said, it’s also good for the town.
“It allows us to showcase the community … and it’s good for the economy,” she said. “We’ve got people here from all over to participate.”
Nickie Blanton, who works at Robeson Community College, came all the way from St. Pauls to run with her longtime friend and co-worker, Rose Avant, a Lumberton resident.
“We’re part of an exercise group that gets together several times a week and work out and so this is something a lot of us decided to do together,” Blanton said. Blanton said Stride for Health usually consists of 10 to 15 members.
“We support each other, there’s vendors, good food,” Blanton said. “It’s just a fun time.”
Avant said she hoped to match her time from a Stride for Health 5K in October — and has her strategy all worked out.
“I tell [Blanton] to run so I can chase her. She’s younger than me, she’s supposed to be out in front of me,” she said. “Always have a goal!”
After the races, runners and non-runners alike headed to the Bud Light North of the Border Chili Cook-Off, where about 20 teams showcased their recipes.
Clayton Home Sales, with their duck chili, won Best Overall Chili. With the added touch of pepper spray, the Lumberton Police department took the title of Weirdest Ingredient.
The category of Volunteer’s Choice went to Candy Sue’s, as did Best Restaurant Chili. Built Right Construction won Best Small Business Chili while Southeastern Health took Best Large Business. Best Nonprofit Chili went to Boy Scout Troop 386 and Best Church Chili went to First Baptist Church. Best Health Care Chili to Lumberton Urology and Spiciest Chili went to H&R Block.
The Jamaican Jerks, donning dreadlocks and Bob Marley Shirts, won Best Booth.
Bare Naked Chili, a group of friends from North Lumberton, won Best Name and Best Costume, for their flesh-colored body suits and strategically placed “censored” bars and aprons.
Scotty Thompson, who judged the aesthetic categories, was impressed by their courage — and their cooking.
“Every year they raise the stakes, I don’t know how they’ll top themselves next year,” Thompson said.
The Rumba, which is for the first time every a three-day event, concludes today with three bike rides.