No event in October for Garland

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

September 11, 2013

GARLAND — There will officially be no October event in Garland. With the Rotary Club’s charter revoked, a community group expressed their intentions to put on a parade, but plans fell through, leaving the town to eye a possible Christmas event instead.

An update on the Oct. 5 event came up under old business at Tuesday night’s Garland Board of Commissioners meeting, but when it was introduced by Mayor Winifred Murphy, there was nothing but silence. Murphy asked Commissioner Ralph Smith, whose wife Pearl Smith was adamant just a couple weeks ago there would be a parade.

“I thought they would (give an update), but evidently no one wants to speak,” said Ralph Smith.

Pearl Smith and others were in attendance but chose not to speak.

Murphy said it was her understanding, having been told by Ralph Smith, that someone would be on hand to speak to the possibility of having an event on the first Saturday of October, as has been done for years. Murphy said she was told plans were ongoing and there would be someone in attendance to update the board.

“What I told you yesterday evidently didn’t happen. I thought someone would be here to speak, but nobody’s speaking,” said Smith. “I think it’s pretty evident that it’s not going to happen through the Rotary Club. I’m up for whatever the board wants to do.”

“It’s getting so late now,” said Murphy, who last month mentioned the possibility of having a Community Day with Rotary having gone by the wayside. “I’m thinking we can’t get anything done to that magnitude. I know all of you have been involved in this and people are expecting something, but we can’t do something if we don’t have the commitment from everyone.”

On Tuesday, she mentioned possibly putting on a Harvest parade. Ralph Smith suggested having a Christmas parade to coincide with the town’s tree-lighting, planning for which would have to begin soon because the holiday was not far off. Murphy said that the N.C. STEP committee has previously floated that option and the town could proceed with it.

“So that kind of settles it. There will no activity on Oct. 5,” Murphy said. “It was my understanding someone was still working on that.”

Last year’s was the 31st annual Garland Rotary Fair and Parade, featuring a full slate of activities, including the parade, tribute to veterans, a plethora of games and vendors and a street dance to close out the night. For years, town officials have touted the event with attracting a large number of people, putting the town on display and allowing vendors a good chance to advertise themselves and bringing outside revenue into the southern Sampson town.

A fixture in the town, the fair was the subject of a special-called session Aug. 29 and a main topic of discussion in the town since.

The Garland Board of Commissioners met to consider holding “Garland Community Day” in the Rotary Fair’s place Oct. 5 — the day is traditionally slated for the first Saturday of October — but no action was taken following the announcement by Pearl Smith that a new Rotary Club had been formed in the wake of the longtime club’s revoked charter.

“We have 26 charter members and they are ready to go,” she said at the Aug. 29 meeting. “We are going to have a parade, and we are going to have it the first Saturday of October. It will be business as usual as it has always been.”

Other members of the community inquired as to whether they could join forces with the new “Rotary” club, unrecognized by Rotary International, but were told that any new members would be considered on a case-by-case basis by the group. Following the meeting, Murphy said it was “just more division” for the board and its community.

However, in the days after the meeting, Andy Chused, District Governor for Rotary International, said the newly formed group was not a Rotary Club and would not be able to get a charter in a matter of weeks. Any event in October would not be able to bear the Rotary name and its seal, because it is trademarked, he said.

Commissioner Michael Toler said a Christmas parade could be a great event for the town.

“I firmly believe we can all join together and put on a fantastic Christmas parade this year, something this town has never had since I’ve been a part of it,” Toler said, “and that would work out good with our tree-lighting and everything.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at