LUMBERTON — Cool and breezy weather did not keep crowds away Saturday from Rumba on the Lumber, an annual Lumberton showcase that Stephen McIntyre called “a great community event.”
Rumba on the Lumber has a little bit of something for everyone. And it was as if everyone from miles around packed downtown Lumberton where McIntyre was standing in the middle of more than two dozen tables serving chili to hundreds of people who came to enjoy the Bud Light North of the Border Chili Cook-Off.
“When I wanted to show off Lumberton to my law school classmates at Carolina, I brought six of them to this event,” he said.
Some people traveled long distances to be at Rumba on the Lumber. Venita Jenkins, a former reporter for The Robesonian, said it is an annual pilgrimage from Wilmington for her.
“I come all this way for the Jamaican Jerk chili,” Jenkins said. “It’s always good. It starts off sweet because of the bananas in the recipe, then it turns hot.”
Chad Anderson has family in Lumberton. He traveled from Atlanta to attend with his mother, Southeastern Health President/CEO Joann Anderson. Southeastern Heath is a major Rumba sponsor.
“This is my third time at the Rumba,” the younger Anderson said. “I ran in the 5K. The wind was brutal this morning.”
The fun began Saturday morning with the 5K and 10K road races, managed by the Robeson Road Runners, and a fun run for the less serious through Lumberton that was sponsored by Southeastern Health.
Beginning life as a road race, Rumba on the Lumber spread its wings to encompass the chili contest, music, arts and crafts, and a children’s zone. New this year was the Pop-up Art Show sponsored by the Robeson County Arts Council. It was held in the former Kimbrell’s Furniture store on Elm Street.
At the art show, Lauren Morse and Nancy Martin purchased art, listened to chamber music by Bella Venti and watched Bucky Benson paint and Melvin Morris sculpt. Lumberton artist Joy McGugan organized the event.
“We’ve had very good attendance,” McGugan said. “A steady stream of people came from the moment we opened the door. It’s gratifying.”
Volunteers who perform many various tasks are the heart and soul of the event. Southeastern Academy students Emma Hinson and Carter Osborne manned the information booth.
“It’s going well, except for the wind,” Hinson said. “A lot of people are asking questions about everything.”
The pair had the answers: “Right now they are giving out awards to the runners.” “The fun run starts at 11 on Chestnut Street.”
Volunteers judge the chili, and they take their task seriously.
“Our table is judging best-tasting and spiciest chili,” Rudy Locklear said. “There is some really good chili this year.”
Locklear, Dale Deese, Rob Winesett and James Gregory Bell were judging semifinalists. They have excellent credentials for judging because when they are not judging chili contests Locklear is a magistrate, Bell is a Superior Court judge and Deese a District Court judge.
Local restaurant owner Arnold West has been a judge for many years and enjoys every minute.
“This was some of the best chili ever, and I’ve been doing this for many years,” said West, who took it a step further. “I would sell the winning chili at my restaurant for a month and donate the proceeds to their favorite charity.”
Carlotta Winston was dishing up chili for Southeastern Health. It was healthy chili, she said.
“It’s because we use vegetables and two kinds of beans for protein, including chickpeas,” Winston said. “We mix in a lot of love, and it has a kick to it.”
Around the tables, the best chili was a matter of opinion for amateur tasters. But Robesonian Sports Editor Jonathan Bym said he tried them all and judged The Robesonian’s recipe the best.
“I am trying to find a chili that is better than The Robesonian’s. I’ve tried them all, and I have not found it yet,” Bym said.
Bym might have been a bit biased, but he got support for his opinion from Kathy Carmical, who said it had “just the right amount of heat.”
Stirring and spooning out the chili at the newspaper’s booth were Clarissa Jackson, Mike Skipper, and William and Zack Lowe. Like everybody at Rumba on the Lumber, they were winners Saturday.
Event director Jef Lambdin remained enthusiastic at 4 p.m. as the event drew to a close. He had several observations.
“Overall, I’m pleased, especially with the plaza setting,” Lambdin said. “At this hour, there are still lines at the children’s rides. That’s a good sign.”
“What stands out in my mind at this hour is the RobCoBots,” he said of the robotic vehicles that ran in the fun run and entertained children all day. “They engineered it and let kids run the bots through a course. It was high school kids sharing engineering with children — fantastic!
The weekend wraps up with a 20-mile bicycle run today at noon beginning from Northeast Park in Lumberton.
Reach Scott Bigelow at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]