City slickers and rural folk alike have found something to savor during Farm-City Week, held each year in Richmond County to celebrate food and the people who grow it.
For townies — especially kids — it was the candy thrown from floats in the annual parade Saturday in Ellerbe, featuring tractors, fire engines and people dressed as spotted cows. After the parade, there were turkey legs, collard sandwiches and holiday spice cake for sale behind Town Hall.
For farmers, it was barbecued goat at the Farm-City Week luncheon Monday — although, truth be told, the barbecued pork and grilled chicken were far more popular. (But people complain if goat’s not on the menu, said Susan Kelly of Richmond County Extension, an event co-sponsor.)
“Want some goat?” grill master Earl Graves of the N.C. Forest Service asked repeatedly Monday, a hopeful look on his face. He had prepared the goat himself, starting at 11 p.m. Sunday, and kept it warm and juicy in an old Army thermal container.
“You got to try” new things, said one adventurous taker, followed by one proclaiming:
“You better not put that goat up on me now!”
Graves and a continually growing crew of helpers and supervisors hit the parking lot in front county agricultural services offices at about 7:45 a.m. Monday, setting up a grill for the chicken, and burners to boil corn and green beans, and deep-fry hush puppies.
“We spent 12 hours on the food,” Graves said, minutes before the serving line formed officially. “They spend 12 minutes” gobbling it up.
Highlights of the lunch — Graves’s feelings aside — were announcements of the Farmer of the Year for 2017: John McInnis of Ellerbe, who raises chickens and goats, and is known as a mentor to young farmers; and Conservation Family of the Year, Jimmy and Lisa Hayden of Ellerbe, who have worked to prevent harmful erosion.
Saturday’s parade was a 3-year-old’s dream: tractors followed by tractors followed by fire trucks, with Santa at the end. Eager parade-goers lined Main Street, some on foot, some in folding chairs and early birds, on the beds of parked pickups.
“I didn’t know there was this many people in Ellerbe,” exclaimed Curtis McCoy, who has lived in Ellerbe for six decades.
Those in the know came with bags for the candy (and seed packs) thrown from the vehicles coursing slowly down Main Street. Five-year-old Noah Trexler of Rockingham, for example, showed off a zippered lunch bag full.
Those unprepared — like 3-year-old Kendol Robinson of Ellerbe — stuffed their own pockets full of Smarties and Tootsie Rolls before turning to their parents for aid.
The Richmond Senior High School band led off the parade with a medley of Americana, followed by Ellerbe Middle School cheerleaders. There were beauty queens — one almost fell off the back of a Corvette when it lurched into motion after the parade stalled for a bit — and all manner of farm-related vehicles.
Smokey Bear rolled by only minutes before Mrs. Claus zipped past in a silly little car, preceding her better half atop a red fire engine.
At parade’s end about 30 minutes after its start, 2-year-old Callan Campbell of Cordova propped his head on his hand as he sat in his stroller. He’d seen it all, his look said. It was time to go home.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.