Ed. — This story originally ran in the Aug. 9 print edition.
BY SHELLY SLOCUM
KNOTTS ISLAND, N.C. —The very first Knotts Island Peach Festival took place July 27-28, 1987.
Thirty-two years later, people gathered on those same dates to celebrate the island, raise money for the community and enjoy peaches during the weekend event.
Locals and visitors strolled through a field of vendors and carnival rides, peach ice cream refreshing them in the summer heat on Saturday, July 27, a busy day for the community festival. Hundreds of people made the long drive down narrow, winding country roads to make it to the festival organized by the Knotts Island Ruritan Club.
Children played on the carnival rides and got glitter tattoos while the sweet aroma of kettle corn filled the air around them.
At $5 per person – and children’s admission free of charge – the festival was an affordable, family-friendly event. It was a strong turnout, according to Anita Waterfield, Peach Festival coordinator and treasurer of the Knotts Island Ruritan Club.
“We have a large following of our local people,” Waterfield said that Saturday. “Last night, we had quite a few locals come out for ride night. Ride night is [when] we don’t charge admission to get in, but they come and they ride and eat and have a good time.”
The event functions as a fundraiser for the Ruritan Club, which consists of about 10 active members and a lot of volunteers, according to Waterfield.
“This was started in 1987, and they started it in order to pay for the building, the 10 acres that they have built here and to build the building back there,” she said. “Now we are doing it to pay for the new property that we’ve just bought, so all our money will go towards that and towards the community of Knotts Island.”
The Ruritans also host a number of other events, according to Bonnie Williams, a member of the club.
Events on the island include oyster roasts, an artisan festival and trunk or treat, she said.
The Peach Festival had 55 vendors this year, giving shoppers a wide variety of foods, crafts and activities to choose from.
“This is my first year as a vendor,” said Donnie Norrel, owner of Rocky Top Apiary, which produces honey. “Everybody likes local honey, because it’s beneficial health-wise and the flavor of it’s really good. So the people look like they’re having a good time, and I’m doing good at sales.”
Kids fluttered between face painting, caricatures, rock wall climbing and glitter tattoos.
The event also featured raffles and live musical performances, including the Mullin Sisters, who sang country songs as people gathered in the shade of the tents to cool down.
“This is better than we’ve had in two years,” Waterfield said. “The weather’s nice. It usually revolves around the weather.”
People strolled and ate their fresh Carolina barbecue, peach ice cream, and of course, peaches. The vendors were running low on peaches by the end of Saturday, though there were some left to sell early Sunday for good causes on the island.
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