By Catharin Shepard
The “Exodus” of the North Carolina Turkey Festival is coming together with new activities and some returning favorites, director Melissa Pittman said.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the festival, and the last under that name. The festival will continue next year as the North Carolina Poultry Festival. The change allows organizers the ability to include other types of poultry, such as chicken, into the celebration.
This year’s festival will kick off September 6 with a party and a corn hole tournament at the PK Grill. It proved to be very popular last year, Pittman said.
“There will be skydiving all day and corn hole all day. Last year that was a huge event for our community. We had people from five different counties come in and be with us that night, which represented them and introduced them to another part of our county,” she said.
The activities continue September 13 with a variety of sports tournaments for adults and youth. The festival will hold a tennis tournament, a youth soccer tournament and a youth softball tournament. That day, the Community Choir, formed last year from volunteer community singers, will hold a first anniversary celebration.
“I can say nothing but good things about our choir that represents Raeford and Hoke County. Over the past year, we have gone to four different counties and 22 different churches representing Hoke County and the Turkey Festival of course,” Pittman said.
The festival will offer events every day from September 13-20. The “super Saturday” in McLauchlin Park will be held September 20. There are already 86 vendors signed up to sell crafts, food, toys, homemade decorations and much more, the director said.
The Saturday in the park will also offer live entertainment, including the return of the 82nd Airborne band and chorus. This year’s festival will have something new for children: a “percussion zoo” that will allow kids to try out various percussion instruments. The percussion expert bringing the instruments will also perform on stage.
Other returning events include the parade on Thursday, September 18, the Stuffin’ and Stompin’ dinner on Friday, September 19, the dog show in the park on Saturday, September 20 and the cooking competition cook-off the same day.
The festival is always a great way for visitors to see more of Raeford and Hoke County, Pittman said.
“We are expecting during the entire week between 35,000 and 36,000 people to come to Raeford and Hoke to see that, and it’s an honor,” she said.
The Hoke County commission approved Monday a request from the festival to waive the fees for renting certain county properties for the purpose of holding the festival. Additionally, a county employee will attend the evening at the Parks and Recreation fields to check for any vandalism of the property after the concert, as the festival itself would be accountable for any such vandalism.