ROSEBORO — After catching his breath, Ken Howell took a break from riding his 22-gear bicycle and took a moment to notice the beauty of Downtown Roseboro.
“We haven’t had a rest stop yet that has greeted us like this,” Howell said while standing next to fellow cyclists who pedaled for hundreds of miles. “This is great.”
The Southern Pines native was just one of hundreds of people participating in the 2018 Cycle North Carolina “Mountains to Coast” route. It began in Black Mountain on Saturday, Sept. 30, and continued through Morgantown, Mooresville, Archdale, Southern Pines, Dunn, Elizabethtown and end in Oak Island. Prior to the Roseboro stop, the Spivey’s Corner Fire Department and volunteers provided food. As a cyclist, Howell enjoys being outside and seeing the country.
“That’s the good thing about Cycle NC,” Howell said. “We would never see these towns if we weren’t on a bicycle because we don’t drive through here.”
Many towns enjoyed rolling out the red carpet, but in Roseboro’s case it was the Yellow Brick Road with a “Wizard of Oz” theme. Yellow marks were painted on the street to guide participants to the heart of Roseboro. With more cyclists expected to come through, Mayor Alice Butler was pleased with Friday morning’s turnout which included hundreds of people. Vendors provided a variety of refreshments and meals, which went really fast. Butler pointed out that one vendor was sold out of chicken salad sandwiches at 10:30 a.m.
“You can’t beat that,” Butler said with a smile.
During the stop, Butler greeted a lot of visitors after they parked their bicycles. Like many other Roseboro and Sampson County leaders, she enjoyed the attention.
“That’s exactly what we want,” Butler said. “Roseboro wants to take root and bloom.”
The town was contacted by Chris Wicker of Cycle NC with a request to have a festival stop in the area. Sampson County’s Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) assisted with the event by sponsoring the Eastline Band.
“It’s been a really big day for our little town of 1,200 people,” Butler said. “We’re just happy to be a part of it.”
For several hours, the amount of people in Roseboro grew by 900 because of the Cycle NC organization, which organized the first cycle event in 1999. In 2016, Sampson County was a stop-off point at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center on Warsaw Road. CVB Director Sheila Barefoot was excited during that year and was thrilled about Roseboro being selected along with Spivey’s Corner for 2018.
“I think they’ll want to come back and want to see more,” Barefoot said. “I’m just excited to be here and I hope they’ll choose us soon as an overnight stop.”
An overnight stay was scheduled in Elizabethtown, but changed due to Hurricane Florence. Barefoot assisted Cycle NC with lodging in Sampson County. Participants were transported from Elizabethtown to Clinton for overnight stays. They returned to Elizabethtown early Saturday morning to complete the final stop in Oak Island.
Cyclist Joe Sanders of Hendersonville said it was phenomenal experience, which included support from state troopers, local law enforcement and towns such as Roseboro.
“Every time we came through, they just rolled out the red carpet,” Sanders said. “It really paints a wonderful picture of the hospitality of North Carolina.”
Shawn Hobbs, director of the Main Street and Small Town’s Economic Prosperity Programs, was one of those individuals Sanders showed appreciation for. Hobbs provided decorations along with quilts, blankets and pillows for visitors to relax under shade. He showed appreciation to the organization for picking Roseboro, which included several choices for lunch.
“We gave it our best shot and we’ve heard several comments that this was the best stop on their journey from the mountain to the sea,” Hobbs said. “I’m proud of Roseboro and the volunteers.”
A lemonade stand was set up near the “digDOWNTOWN” project which produces a variety of fruits and vegetables. As Hobbs poured lemonade into cups, he expressed how it was very awarding and satisfying to see a vibrant scene.
“It takes a whole group of volunteers,” Hobbs said. “We don’t have a lot of those, but I really appreciate the five or 10 that we do have. It’s very cool that our town is rebuilding and coming back to life. It’s what we want.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.