It might not be an official designation, but for many folks in this area, the start of the 2014 festival season gets under way this week with the opening of the 33rd annual Mayfest in Pilot Mountain.
And area charities and non-profits will benefit all year-round.
Wendy Wood, vice president of the Pilot Mountain Civic Club and chairman of this year’s festival, said more than 150 craft and retail vendors will be set up in Pilot Mountain, selling their wares to an expected 30,000 visitors during the three-day event.
“We have almost 200 spaces and they are all full,” she said of the vendor spots. “We have vendors who come all the way from Florida, Ohio, Alabama, up the East Coast.” Some, she said, are returning home to the North after visiting Florida and timed their trip to be able to set up shop at Mayfest. Still others make a point of being here year after year.
In addition to those selling some retail and craft goods, Wood said there will be more than a dozen additional food vendors on hand selling just about every kind of food one might want — some old regulars, a few a little exotic.
“We have one selling alligator meat, another doing savory crepes. Not like dessert crepes, but like entree crepes,” she said. “Then we have Lovell’s Chapel Church with cobbler and ice cream, Siloam United Methodist Church with BBQ sandwiches, other local groups doing food.”
The festival, Wood said, has been around a while, and bounced around a little bit in its early days until finding Mother’s Day weekend was the perfect time for the event.
“It’s probably one of the oldest festivals around,” she said. “I know Autumn Leaves is older, but I’m guessing we may be next,” she said, in reference to the annual Autumn Leaves Festival in Mount Airy held each October.
She said the festival began when the civic club was looking for a fundraiser event. After experimenting with few different times of year, the club settled on Mother’s Day weekend.
“I’ve been with the club for 13 years and it’s been Mother’s Day all that time. I’m guessing, probably, we’ve had it on Mother’s Day two thirds of the time since it started.”
That has been a good move for the group, she said.
“In the fall, there are so many other festivals to compete with, this kind of kicks off the spring and the festival year,” she said. “Plus it’s a good time for everyone to buy Mother’s day presents. That’s what I do. For several years our Mother’s Day presents have come from Mayfest.”
The festival, along with the civic club’s fall golf tournament, makes up the bulk of the money the organization raises through the year.
That money, she said, goes to local organizations in the Pilot Mountain community.
“All of the profits from the festival both help us fund about 20 non-profits groups, such as the Pilot Mountain Outreach Center, some local school programs, Surry Medical Ministries, the summer reading program at Charles H. Stone Memorial Library, and others.”
Those groups, she said, go before a civic club committee at the end of each year to make a presentation highlighting how they’ve used the money over the previous year, how many people they’ve helped and what effect they have had in the community, before making a new request for the upcoming year.
“It’s similar to what United Fund does. After the money is given out, we have those nonprofits come into the civic club and explain to us how the money was used, what their group does.”
She said the civic group, after all expenses, typically nets about $15,000 to give out to these groups from the festival.
The event gets under way Friday at 9 a.m., though the opening ceremony is at 11 a.m. The festival gets going again at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and runs again from 1 until 6 p.m. on Sunday.
This year the Pilot Mountain Rescue Squad will host the Triad Chapter of Pink Heals fire truck and police car all day Saturday. Sophie, the girl with cancer who the truck is named for, is in treatments because her cancer has returned. The rescue squad will be set up near the Squeeze Box diner.
In addition to the vendors, the festival features amusement rides for the kids, face painting, an artist doing on-the-spot black-and-white portraits, and plenty of live performances.
On Friday night, The Low Counts plays at 6 p.m., focusing on original rock music, and at 7 p.m. Donnaha Station, what Wood describes as a popular local band, takes the stage.
On Saturday, the Red Wigglers go on stage at 5 p.m., while the Marshall Brothers and High Road perform beginning at 7 p.m.
Wood said she and others have been working on the festival since fall, and she mentioned Karen Nash, food vendor chairperson, and Ron Stephenson, who organized the bandstand sponsors and entertainment line-up, for putting in particularly long hours on the festival.
She also said anyone interested in becoming involved with the civic club is welcome. It meets the first and third Tuesday of every month, from noon until 1 p.m., at Pilot Knob Park Country Club. For more information, she said folks can call her at 401-2710.