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All week, we have heard wonderful comments from the community regarding the 15th annual N.C. Whirligig Festival. We are so thrilled that everyone had a great time. I had to take a moment today to share how thankful we are to the Wilson community, and surrounding region, for attending, supporting and participating! We are grateful to have more than 40,000 people attend and have a record-breaking number of vendors, activities and downtown merchants participating.
At the top my list is my sincere gratitude to the dedicated volunteers who serve on the Whirligig Festival Planning Team. This group cares about the people of Wilson and their dedication showed. It takes a full year to plan all the festival details. The planning team is composed of all volunteers. And due to their involvement, we brought back many favorite activities and had new events added such as the Whirli-Run 5/10K and the Chalk Art Contest.
I believe it is imperative to personally take a moment to thank them for balancing the festival planning with the responsibility of family, full-time jobs and more. We had more than 25 dedicated volunteers on the team this year. While I am guessing there may be newspaper policy against including the names of these incredible people, I am going to do it anyway and hope all the names are printed. I must say how thankful we are all to Amelia Martin, Angie Harold, Anna Long, Bill Hannah, Blake Holloman, Cathy Brown Hardison, Cindy Boring, Dave Allgood, David Wilhelm, Dee Dee Oliver, Diane Chambers, Dindy Perry, Drew Barker, Gabby McHarg, Jeff Bell, Jeremy Munn, Jim Campbell, Judi Thurston, Kathleen Ujlaki, Kellianne Davis, Kendra Howell, Michael McHarg, Rebecca Agner, Sheryletta Lacewell, Stefanie Jones, Stephanie Pridgen and their close friends and family who got “volun-told” to help with festival activities.
In addition, we are grateful to our community sponsors. Their generous donations and support ranging from financial sponsorships to sharing their parking lots made the festival possible. Our presenting sponsor, PNC Bank, along with our Top Gig sponsors — the city of Wilson, Wilson Medical Center and Wilson Tourism, were the financial backbone of this year’s festival. Their donations, along with the combined sponsorships of more than 25 additional community sponsors, kept this festival free to all who attended.
One of the goals set forth by the festival team 15 years ago was to keep the festival as free as possible so everyone could attend. As our neighboring communities started to charge admission to their festivals or charge for parking or charge for the main concert, the N.C. Whirligig Festival has remained free. The entertainment was free. The kids’ zone was free. The parking was free. The extreme inflatables were free. The Whirligig Warrior course was all free. The community sponsorships have kept the festival true to our original mission to be a free festival and open to the entire community so that all children may attend and create memories with their families.
While having a huge turnout is certainly a top goal, the festival planning team does not measure success by attendance numbers, beautiful weather or even by vendor sales, but rather by the smiles on the children’s faces, by the joy of watching families and neighbors spend time together, by seeing visitors to Wilson from across the state and across the state lines, and by seeing the diversity in those celebrating what is unique to Wilson — Vollis Simpson whirligigs!
We are always looking to add new volunteers to the festival planning team and new ideas to festival. This certainly is not your typical boring committee, so please contact us to get involved next year.
We want to express our appreciation for everyone who participated, planned, attended and supported the festival, and we look forward to seeing you back in 2020 to give the N.C. Whirligig Festival a whirl!
The writer is director of the 2019 N.C. Whirligig Festival.