FAIRMONT — From colorful floats to noisy fire trucks, beauty queens to marching bands, dancing clowns to tiny cheerleaders who piled high in pyramids, there were 108 reasons why thousands of people lined Fairmont’s Main Street on Saturday morning to watch as the Farmers Festival Parade rolled by — one for each member of the two-hour-long lineup.
Ninety-year-old Dorothy Hammonds craned her neck to see above the crowd that had gathered on the curb in front of her wheelchair. She was hoping to see one of her three family members who were a part of the parade.
“I just enjoy everything,” she said. “It’s so nice. Now I like the parades even more because my grandchildren are in all of them.”
Hammonds said she hasn’t missed the festival’s opening event since she moved to Fairmont 40 years ago. Many others in the crush of people also said it wasn’t their first visit to the parade.
“We’re here every year, same spot,” said Lisa Floyd, who stood alongside her husband Billy as their son, 3-year-old Mason, waved at passing vehicles from his father’s shoulders. “We’ve been coming here since he was born.”
From his vantage point in a closed-off stretch of sidewalk, what Mayor Charles Kemp liked most about the parade was the crowd.
“This weather is perfect,” Kemp said. “It’s bringing people out in droves … people are going to stick around, and who knows, more might be coming in.”
The Farmers Festival also featured a car, motorcycle and tractor show; arts and crafts; concessions; bouncy houses; a horseshoe and corn hole tournament; and a Vietnam helicopter display. Entertainment included Lumbee Tribal Dancers, the gospel group New Silvertones, a wrestling match by Ring Wars Carolina and blues music played by Lakota John and family. A shag contest, held at the Robeson County fairgrounds, followed the festival at 9 p.m.
Crystal Holmes and Scott Milstead, of Lumberton, attend the parade every year to watch as their children, Zachary, 2, and Nathan, 7, laugh at the Sudan Cruiser’s tiny cars.
“That’s what we need right there, Dad,” Nathan said. “Me and you. I can ride one, and you can ride one.”
The Shriners’ small vehicles were also the favorite of Chris Lupo, 6, who stood with his father Chris, brother Colton, 2, and grandmother Virginia Caulder.
“We come to this thing every year,” Caulder said as she pointed out one of the 12 antique tractors that were puttering down the street to her grandsons. “I’d leave work to come see it, if I had to.”
The festival was funded partly by a $2,700 grant from the North Carolina Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program. The remaining grant money will be used to paint a mural in Heritage Park.