Michael Jaenicke-Assistant Features editor
LUMBERTON - The atmosphere surrounding the Black Water Grille on Thursday looked a little like an Academy Awards ceremony.
Black tuxedoes. Low-cut sequin dresses. A stretch limousine. A red carpet runway leading up to a gold painted, life-sized Oscar statuette.
And to about 250 Robeson County faithful, it was a world premier night as the Lumberton Chamber of Commerce shook up the banquet facility by unveiling the "Loving Lumberton" video.
The "stars" of this 12-minute informational flick shared their feelings about family life, recreation, education, business and health care in Robeson County. On camera they dressed more casual and spoke of the opportunity, values and quality of life in a small but growing Southern town.
The most nervous person at the gig was Mike DeCinti, a mass communications professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, who was responsible for directing, producing, writing and filming of the video. He used two of his broadcasting majors - Matt DiChiara and Mike Maynor - to complete a project that started just over a year ago.
DeCinti was uneasy in part because this release would be immediately judged by his friends, neighbors, acquaintances and co-workers. To him, the room was filled with familiar critics.
"I've made a lot of these before and never felt so on edge," DeCinti said. "It took a couple hundred hours between shooting, editing and graphics. I felt the lines came across naturally, even though they were scripted."
The video didn't disappoint most of crowd, including Becky Bullard, who chaired the seven-person Chamber committee that was responsible for the video.
"I was impressed, and while our committed did put some of it together it was the work of Mike in making this become an believable economic project to educate and improve the image of Lumberton and Robeson County," she said. "It was all genuine people talking about the opportunity and assets in the community."
The video will be shown to prospective employers and people who are entertaining thoughts about working or living in the area, and for a host of other promotional reasons.
"Yeah, you talk about industries, business and jobs but what it all boils down to is people and families," said local businessman Joe Butler, whose remarks opened and closed the video.
"It's about people seeing we have small-town life but close enough to the immunities of big towns to make it comfortable. It's about working and living here and not having to drive 35 to 40 minutes every day for work ... and it's about the life we share living and working together in a tri-racial community."
Butler's words segued nicely into the tone of Angela Sumner, who spoke about family life and recreation in the area. John Masters took center stage for the business climate in the County. St. Pauls and UNCP grad Lorna McNeil Ricotta spoke about all levels of education. Dr. Dennis Stuart of Southeastern Regional Medical Center spoke about health care profession and Linda Metzger on housing.
Lumberton Mayor Ray Pennington, UNCP Chancellor Allen Meadors, Robeson Community College President Charles Chrestman and the Public Schools of Robeson County Superintendent Colin Armstrong also added cameos.
But the overall message wasn't delivered by the "hotshots" of the County. It came from more common folk - people who said they believed the message of the video.
It was also the opening night for "The Hall at Black Water," a spacious banquet room. The restaurant is co-owned by Rob Redfearn and Dave Redfearn. It was Rob Redfearn who made the logo and coined the phrase, "Love Living in Lumberton."
Now there's a video in the vaults to serve as a living testament to how many people feel about life in this neck of the woods.