Whirligig Festival goes statewide

Event changes name to reflect broad appeal

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The annual celebration of folk artist Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs will return this year with a new name reflecting its statewide appeal.

Formerly known as the Wilson Whirligig Festival, the event will be called the North Carolina Whirligig Festival this fall, festival coordinator Theresa Mathis said. The festival committee approved the change this summer.

Organizers said the change “felt natural” because whirligigs are North Carolina’s official folk art. The designation was made in June 2013 when Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill recognizing the state’s official fossil, frog, salamander, marsupial, folk art and art medium.

“The whirligigs created by Vollis Simpson are adopted as the official folk art of the state of North Carolina,” states House Bill 830, which was co-sponsored by state Rep. Susan Martin, R-Wilson.

The greatest concentration of Simposn’s whirligigs are located in downtown Wilson at the site of the future Wilson Whirligig Park.

Mathis said she hopes the transition to a statewide festival will open doors to regional sponsorships “in addition to the dedicated community that has consistently sponsored the Whirligig Festival for the past 11 years,” she said in a statement.

The 12th annual festival is planned for the first weekend in November. It draws an estimated 40,000 people to downtown Wilson for sightseeing, arts and crafts and food and fun.

The North Carolina Whirligig Festival is a nonprofit tasked with the mission of celebrating people and “art in motion.” The group is a member of the N.C. Festival and Events Association, which has recognized the Wilson festival with multiple awards.

The planning committee meets monthly and is accepting new members. Mathis said prospective planners should be “volunteers who want to meet new people, be creative and take part in our community’s largest celebration.”

Festival organizers are currently accepting sponsorships and vendor applications. For more information, visit www.whirligigfestivalnc.org.