Visitors savor Pickle Fest | Mount Olive Grandstand

Deputy Editor

Josiah Pearsall and his grandmother left the children’s carnival area and headed downtown to see more sights during the 36th annual North Carolina Pickle Festival.

But something unusual caught Pearsall’s attention.

A gentleman, Victor Kent, was pedaling down Main Street on a Wright Brothers bicycle. The early 1900s mode of transportation featured a high wheel in the front and a low wheel in the back.

Kent got off the bike and posed for a photo or two.

Intrigued by the antique-looking craft, festival-goers asked Kent if they could come aboard and have their photo taken. Kent agreed, especially when Pearsall, who was half the height of the bike, wanted to try.

Kent nudged her on the seat and Pearsall smiled proudly at her grandmother. It was an unexpected experience for the youngster, who recently celebrated his sixth birthday.

“It was fun,” Pearsall said.

“Fun” was the buzzword during the two-day celebration.

A crowd estimated at 40,000 visited downtown Mount Olive on a hot sunny day to sample pickles in various forms and witness one of the best festivals in the state.

Mayor Kenny Talton officially kicked off the festival by eating the first pickle of the day. He was joined by City Commissioner Harlie Carmichael and NCPF co-chairs Julie Beck and Lynn Williams.

Fully rested after a 7.5-hour journey from South Florida, a trio of young women stopped by the city’s latest edition – a pickle jar mural at the corner of Center and Main streets.

They marveled at the spray-painted artwork and pulled out their cell phones for a “selfie” moment.

“It’s our first time,” said Barbara Moore, who said she and her daughter, Brianna, live about an hour south of Tampa. Kristin Johns, who chatted with Micro resident and friend Ann Marie Miller via Facebook, made the trip with them.

The Moores weren’t the only out-of-town “guests.”

The festival has attracted visitors from New Mexico, Hawaii, Washington, Virginia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, of Utah and many more. Many of them took the time to grab a marker and sign their name on a door outside the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce booth.

At the end of the day, a colorful array of names covered the door on both sides.

Live bands provided music on two stages, but one coveted event – ​​the traditional pickle-eating contest – drew crowds neck and neck. Many recorded the event on their camera phones, as competitors only had five minutes to eat as many pickles as possible.
Wayne Lewis and Carter Alford each gobbled down eight pickles and shared the men’s championship trophy. Hope Mills resident Elizabeth Cline ate the most pickles (10) of all competitors and won the women’s trophy.

Pickleball got its start in Pickle Town at Mount Olive University.

Teams battled for medals and bragging rights at the John Neal Walker Tennis Center on campus. A handful of men’s and women’s doubles teams competed in a round robin to determine the champions.

Beck said the tournament was a last-minute addition, but she plans to advertise on social media and attract more players for next year’s festival.

“Pickles might be the theme of the North Carolina Pickle Festival, but community is what it’s all about,” NCPF organizers said on their Facebook page. “We have been so blessed and touched by the outpouring of support from pickle lovers everywhere. Thank you so much for joining us and we look forward to seeing you again in 2023.”

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