People in Clinton and Sampson County have an uncanny way of pulling off big events with great aplomb, a fact that can be attributed to the amazing vision of dozens of people who, together, pool their time, talents and resources to provide metropolitan-sized activities in a far smaller and more rural setting.
Saturday’s annual Downtown Court Square Street Fair and Barbecue Cookoff would be a good example. To call it a success seems an understatement that doesn’t come close to doing justice to just how remarkable the day — and its myriad offerings — really was.
Thousands of people (we estimated around 10,000) flocked to downtown Clinton throughout the day Saturday. Some got an early start by participating in the growing Downtown Dash, and were greeted by vendors and Tarheel ChalleNGe cadets, all cheering them on as they neared the finished line, grins showing off their satisfaction with a race well ran.
Others gathered for the now annual Breast Cancer rally, held each year on the steps of the courthouse; and still others joined together for the opening of the Sampson County Sports Club’s Hall of Fame at the History Museum.
Some were up far earlier, preparing barbecue for the annual competition; and some waited a bit later for the 10 a.m. official start to the Street Fair; and still others spent a good deal of time enjoying the crafts demonstrations at the History Museum or perusing the 11 buildings that make up a large chunk of Sampson history.
But no matter what time they showed up, the fact is people ignored the cloudy skies, hopped in their vehicles and headed to downtown where they shopped, browsed, ate, played and laughed — young and young at heart, alike — until everyone began to pack it in around 4 p.m.
By all accounts, the day was a tremendous success, a feather in the cap of all those responsible with pulling it all together and pulling it off, seamlessly. The smiles on people’s faces were a clear indication that the day was exactly what organizers had hoped — fun, family-oriented and welcoming.
While it would be a monumental feat to recognize everyone responsible for some aspect of the event, we tip our hats to them all, appreciative of their tireless efforts and complimentary of jobs very, very well done.
The festivities seemed like a great big family reunion, with people stopping to catch up with folks they hadn’t seen in a while or halting in front of the courthouse to catch a glimpse of one of the dozens of talented youngsters performing on Main Street.
It also had a fair-like atmosphere, as dozens enjoyed the scrumptious barbecue offerings, chewed on a delightful dessert, sipped on a Shaver or partook of any number of other taste-bud tempting food items there for the taking.
But more than anything, it was a Norman Rockwell-ish portrait of life in Sampson County, where neighbors roll up shirtsleeves to help neighbors and where community leaders pull together to produce great crowd-drawing events that are sure to keep people coming back for more.