A Friday night rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of Graham County residents who celebrated the 4th of July on courthouse square in Robbinsville during the annual Heritage Festival.
“We had to cancel the first two bands because of the rain and lightning, but we had 400-plus that stayed through the rain and enjoyed the other bands that performed,” Town of Robbinsville Tourism Director Brian Johnson said. “We’ve had a marvelous festival. Despite the weather, it’s been right near the very top of the best we’ve had.”
Johnson will get no argument from food vendors who sold (and sold, and sold) funnel cakes, pizza, hot dogs, barbecue, and other treats.
“We did well last year. We did even better this year,” remarked wood-fired pizza maker Keith Cirka, who sold 200 Italian pies. “We’ll bring more next year.”
Tong’s owner Clay Cooper sold all 152 hot dogs he brought to the festival, and dozens of pickles.
“We’ve had a crowd all day [Saturday]. There was a line at the funnel cakes/lemonade stand for five hours straight,” Johnson said. “It’s just been phenomenal. I’m very pleased.”
So are the gentlemen who served barbecue and beans for Robbinsville Masonic Lodge No. 672. The money they made from selling nearly 360 sandwiches (“And we sold some without buns,” Calvin Gladden said.) The lodge will use proceeds for scholarships for local students, gift bags for nursing home residents, and to help orphans and elderly at Masonic homes.
Music lovers were also pleased. Dancers young and old were still going strong at 10 p.m. Saturday, as the Johnny Webb band gave them what they wanted.
Young ones may have made the best memories. They enthusiastically participated in greased pig, hula hoop, limbo, and watermelon eating contests. More than a dozen kids won trophies, and little Kadence Viar was a two-time champ – she won the melon-eating and greased pig contest for children 2 to 4 years old.
The greased pig competition was especially spirited in the 11-to-14 age group, where Delaney Brooms and Quinn Jumper tied.
Royalty was also crowned. Little Miss Liberty winners were: Kimberly Orr (0 to 2 years old), Ariana Roberts (3 to 5), and Aaliyah Wolfe (6 to 8).
Adults had plenty to celebrate as well, beginning with a solemn flag-raising by local veterans, who then lined up to receive thanks from appreciative festival-goers.
A lineup of motorcycles was another highlight. Chris Radford won the contest for best bike.
Dozens competed in the cornhole tournament, but only two teams won the cash prizes – Jim Long and Vince Honeycutt on Friday and John Crowe and Karina Bottchenbaugh on Saturday.
Young and old alike celebrated Cherokee heritage manifested by spirited fancy dancing and story telling by Robin and Jonathan Jumper and Jamie Pheasant of the Jumper Family Dance Group.
“I think it was a great addition to our Heritage Festival. The crowd was very responsive to them. They will be back!” Johnson remarked.
Event John Shuler wholeheartedly agreed. “It was our privilege to have Graham County native Robin Jumper and his family of dancers at the festival this year ... The Cherokee are truly the heritage of our county and Robin and his family are keeping the history alive telling the story of his native people using this competitive dancing as a platform as they travel the country.”
And, as always, fireworks provided a spectacular finale.