Sunday, May 5, 2019

What makes ‘The Old North State’ unique?

Will a bill proposed in the North Carolina General Assembly to specify “The Old North State” as the official state nickname gain any traction?

North Carolina generally has two surviving nicknames that are regularly used – “The Old North State” and “The Tar Heel State.”

The older of the two is “The Old North State,” and this term is used in both the official state song and the official state toast. Could it be an open-and-shut case? You decide.

In 2015, Our State magazine featured an essay by Katie Quine. She framed the nickname question as a matter of love.

“When I think about my love for this state, my mind always trails to Charles Kuralt’s speech in 1993,” given at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to celebrate the institution’s 200th commencement ceremony.

Quine commented: “His entire cadence is beautiful, but it’s his opening 13 words that resound deepest within my heart, ‘What is it that binds us to this place as to no other?’”

Kuralt continued: “It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. Or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming…our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people.”

Quine opined: “I’d like to believe his words could be applied more generally to North Carolina as a whole.”

“Truly, what binds us to this place of the pine? What makes us want to call North Carolina home? In and of itself, tar isn’t beautiful, and it isn’t nice, but those who have it forever stuck to their heels sure are,” Quine wrote.

A compilation of accolades from various sources says being a Tar Heel embodies “discipline, courage, determination, gallantry, honor and commendation.”

Dr. Bill Ferris, a history professor at UNC-CH, said a modern-day interpretation of Tar Heel “is associated with being grounded and anchored in a powerful way to the land.”

That surely was the case with Charles Kuralt. He was born in Wilmington in 1934 and studied journalism at UNC-CH where he was editor of The Daily Tar Heel. Kuralt’s first professional job was with The Charlotte News, where he wrote an award-winning column called “Charles Kuralt’s People.” In 1957, at age 23, he became the youngest correspondent ever hired by CBS News.

He later introduced a good-news segment on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Called “On the Road,” the feature ran for more than 20 years. During that time, Kuralt and his crew wore out six campers, crisscrossing the country’s back roads and telling stories about ordinary Americans. He later anchored CBS News Sunday Morning before retiring in 1994.

Kuralt never lost touch with North Carolina. He wrote about the state in his book “North Carolina Is My Home,” and some of his best days were spent tucked away atop Grandfather Mountain in a two-room cabin owned by his dear friend Hugh Morton.

Morton’s getaway was known as Anvil Rock. The cabin “features a rough-hewn wooden ceiling, flagstone floor and a view of Linville Peak,” wrote Leigh Ann Henion for Our State. “It takes its name from the top-heavy boulder that makes up its far wall. In summer, the rock exudes coolness. In winter, it seeps warmth. Here, Charles Kuralt became grounded by stone and solitude.”

From this perch, Kurault would venture down into the nooks and crannies of western North Carolina’s mountains to visit with “the storytellers, moonshiners and wood-carvers. He heard from blacksmiths and wildcrafters. He scouted the northwest corner of the state for stories as he had once scoured the country,” Henion said. “Each evening, he returned to Anvil Rock to pen all he had heard.”

Kuralt loved his university. He once observed: “And so, in concentric circles, as if from a pebble tossed from a pool, the influence of the University of North Carolina moves outward to the farthest corners of our state, and far beyond its boundaries.”

But, dagnabbit, he was the most in love with the people of North Carolina! His concluding remarks to his audience at that 1993 address, were:

“Care about one another…my warmest wish for you is to be sensitive enough to feel supreme tenderness toward others, and that you be strong enough to show it. That is a commandment, by the way, and not from me. I believe it is also the highest expression of civilization.”

The General Assembly members…as well as all the rest of us…should take those 50 closing words to heart.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

America celebrates 80 years of ‘School Bus Yellow’

Happy 80th anniversary to “School Bus Yellow,” which became the uniform color of America’s fleet of school buses in 1939.

Dr. Frank W. Cyr, an education professor at Teachers College, part of Columbia University in New York City, is widely regarded as the “Father of the Yellow School Bus.”

His grant-supported work ranks among the most important pieces of research in the history of academia.

The Rockefeller Foundation awarded Dr. Cyr $5,000 in 1937 ($87,400 in today’s inflation-adjusted economy) to go out and study ways to improve rural education and transportation. It proved to be an excellent and worthwhile investment.

Dr. Cyr found that children were riding to school in all kinds of vehicles, ranging from horse-drawn wheat wagons to trucks and buses of all different sizes and colors (one district, hoping to instill patriotism in the children, painted its buses red, white and blue).

Freelance writer Ryan Lee Price of Corona, Calif., dug deeper into Dr. Cyr’s findings related to the shortcomings of rural school transportation. He reported that Dr. Cyr said the situation was “terrible.”

In the late 1930s, each state had its own standards for school transportation vehicles, and “the manufacturers had to cope with the differing rules, requirements and tastes from 48 states. For every different color, the bus companies had to have different booths to spray-paint them,” Dr. Cyr said. This was a huge kink in the economies that could be achieved in “assembly line mass production.”

Dr. Cyr completed his analysis and organized a conference in 1939 on the Columbia University campus, drawing in school administrators and transportation officials from all 48 states as well as key stakeholders, such as specialists from the school bus manufacturing and paint companies, Price reported.

Delegates met for seven days and agreed on 44 school bus safety standards, including specifications regarding body length, ceiling height, aisle width, axles and brakes. The outcome was a 42-page pamphlet containing the nation’s first school bus safety standards.

The most significant development from the 1939 conference was an agreement concerning a uniform color for the school bus vehicles. Officially, the delegates settled on a hue that is now known as “National School Bus Glossy Yellow.”

The conference delegates described the tone as a “warm orangish-yellow,” not to be confused with a warmly yellowish-orange.

Color does matter, explained Jill Morton of Honolulu, a noted color psychologist and branding expert.

She says: “The yellow family of colors gets your attention faster than any other color. People notice yellow objects first.”

“Even when you are looking straight ahead, you can see a yellow object that is not in front of you ‘in the corners of your eyes’ much sooner than any other color, even red. Scientists say lateral peripheral vision for detecting yellows is 1.24 times greater than for red.”

The yellow family is also regarded as the easiest to see in the semi-darkness of early morning and late afternoon, the times of day when the school buses tended to be “out and about.”

In 1989, Columbia University celebrated the 50-year anniversary of Dr. Cyr’s contribution to the nation. Columbia’s President Philip Michael Timpane said the 1939 school bus conference was “truly a milestone event in the annals of American education.”

“It is hard to imagine today any area of education policy where you could gather any number of people in one room and cause such a national change to occur,” he said.

The “School Bus Yellow” paint color was incorporated in 1956 within the Federal Standard Color System, which essentially is the U.S. government’s official paint color palette. The color was labeled first as 13432 but later as 13415. (They look the same to my eye.)

The most comparable color to “School Bus Yellow” in the Pantone Matching System (PMS) for ink colors used in the graphics arts and printing industries is 123-C. Within the Hex Code system, key in ffd800, to see how “School Bus Yellow” looks to designers who work on the digital media and website design side.

Dagnabbit. Wouldn’t you know it? “School Bus Yellow” is included in the rainbow of colors offered in the bigger boxes of Crayola crayons.

William Cyr who, as a child, asked his father the professor, “If you’re the father of the yellow school bus, what does that make me?”

Dr. Cyr replied: “Whenever you see a school bus pass by, you could say, “There goes one of my brothers or sisters.”

Friday, April 12, 2019

Will legislators stick their necks out on NC nickname bill?

It would take an act of the North Carolina General Assembly to select an official state nickname, and Senator Don Davis, D-Snow Hill, volunteered to set the wheels in motion.

He introduced Senate Bill 345 on March 25 to declare “The Old North State” as the state’s official nickname.

The immediate response from the gallery was hip hip hooray…but then came the cautionary amber light signaling: “Dagnabbit; not so fast, my friend.”

What happens to North Carolina’s other nickname – “The Tar Heel State?” It appears passage of S.B. 345 would cause “The Tar Heel State” to be shunned and exiled to languish deep in the wilderness of longleaf pines.

It will be interesting to track the movement of S.B. 345…or lack thereof…during this session of the state legislature.

Sen. Davis, who is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, holds a doctorate degree from East Carolina University. He has done his research and has his facts in order.

“In 1710, the Carolina colony was divided into two colonies, North Carolina and South Carolina, and since that time North Carolina has been referred to as ‘The Old North State,’” Sen. Davis said.

“Furthermore, both the official song and the official toast of North Carolina are known as ‘The Old North State.’”

Therefore, the proposed legislation rationalizes: “‘The Old North State’ should be adopted as the official nickname of North Carolina.”

For the sake of consistency, Sen. Davis comes to a logical conclusion, one that is validated by fact checkers within the cubicles of the state library system.

The division of Carolina into North and South was completed at a meeting of the Lords Proprietors held at Craven House in London on December 7, 1710. Common usage of the term “The Old North State” certainly predates the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The term “Tar Heel” appears to have originated somewhat later, rising to prominence during The War Between the States in the 1860s. There are varying versions of the story; some are juicier…and stickier than others.

The economic driver during North Carolina’s infancy was the harvesting of vast pine forests and the production of “naval stores” – tar, pitch, rosin and turpentine. These items were vitally important to England’s maritime industry.

Historian Walter McKenzie Clark’s account of the Tar Heel story takes readers to the site of a Civil War skirmish at Reams Station in Dinwiddie County, Va. There, a fighting force of North Carolinians stood its ground for the Confederacy, while a Virginian regiment skedaddled.

As the story unfolds, one of those Virginia soldiers supposedly taunted a North Carolina militiaman, asking: “Any more tar down in the Old North State, boys?”

Quick as a flash came the answer: “No, not a bit; old Jeff’s bought it all up.” (The reference was to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.)

“Is that so; what is he going to do with it?”

“He’s going to put it on you-un’s heels to make you stick better in the next fight.”

R.B. Creecy, another revered North Carolina historian, reported that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, “upon hearing of the incident at Reams Station, said: ‘God bless the Tar Heel boys,’ and from that they took the name.”

An essay in NCPedia contributed by Michael W. Taylor stated: “The official seal of approval of ‘Tar Heel’ as a nickname for North Carolinians came when Gov. Zebulon B. Vance visited the Army of Northern Virginia on March 28, 1864.”

Gov. Vance made a point of addressing the soldiers as “Fellow Tar Heels,” citing “we always stick.”

As Taylor tells it: Ten years later (in 1874), the Town of Tar Heel in Bladen County was settled as a landing on the Cape Fear River. The state operated a ferry at this landing, and it was a major loading point for vessels that transported commodities downriver about 90 miles to market in Wilmington.

“The major product was turpentine by the barrels,” Taylor said. “Tar Heel had several turpentine stills, and the result of transporting…leaking barrels caused a tar-like material to be found around the landing and the access to the river.”

“When the community people talked of going to the village, it was said they were going to get tar on their heels,” further advocating the name Tar Heel.

Before we vote on the North Carolina state nickname, let’s delve a little deeper into the lyrics of the state song and the words of a poem that became the state toast.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Plan ahead to see the 2024 solar eclipse

Forward thinkers may want to start plotting and planning where they want to be on April 8, 2024, to view the next total eclipse of the sun.

Actually, Michael Bakich has already done the plotting for us. He is a senior editor at Astronomy magazine, based in Waukesha, Wis., near Milwaukee.

He has put his readers on notice, as a public service, because the totality of the 2024 solar eclipse will eclipse that of the Great American Eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, by well more than a minute at the centerline of the path.

Bakich said he wants to start building the buzz early, so more Americans can “experience the awesome wonder of a total solar eclipse” on April 8, 2024. It’s just five years down the road.

“The length of totality varies from one eclipse to the next,” he said. “The reason is that Earth is not always the same distance from the sun, and the moon is not always the same distance from Earth. The Earth-sun distance varies by 3% and the Earth-moon distance varies by 12%.”

As it works out, Bakich reports the April 8, 2024, eclipse with maximum totality of 4 minutes, 28 seconds will be 67% longer than the one in 2017.

“Only totality reveals the true celestial spectacles…the sun’s glorious corona and 360 degrees of sunset colors,” he said.

Bakich said the 2024 eclipse center line will run diagonally southwest to northeast piercing 14 states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“Those wishing to observe the 2024 eclipse from the same location that the center line crossed during the 2017 eclipse should head to the Village of Makanda, Ill., which lies just south of Carbondale,” he said.

The people of Makanda are already counting down, having cashed in from the tourism traffic that the 2017 eclipse generated for the village with an official population of 561. Makanda’s 2017 blackout lasted 2 minutes, 40 seconds. The 2024 eclipse will be a whopper – lasting 4 minutes, 8 seconds.

The community’s roots date back to 1845, when a construction camp to build the Illinois Central Railroad Chicago to New Orleans sprouted up. The village is named for a legendary Native American chieftain, Makanda.

Historians determined there were “five principal tribes that inhabited the southern Illinois territory in the 1700s – the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Mitchigamie, Peoria and Tamaroa. Only the Kaskaskia and Peoria continued to exist in the early 1800s.” Chief Makanda’s true ancestry remains a source of intrigue.

Today’s Makanda has grown into a trendy arts community, according to Kim Miller, a reporter with the West Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. She was there on assignment for the 2017 eclipse and interviewed Nina Kovar of Visions Art Gallery. “This place has always been a funky elbow in the road, and we know how to party,” Kovar said.

In 2017, the party was at the end of the reddish-orange painted line through Makanda that defined the center line for the eclipse. It led eclipse seekers right into the front door of artist Dave Dardis’ place, The Rainmaker Studio, and into his “secret garden” out back…where the band played on and on.

Byron Hetzler of The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale described Dardis’ 2017 eclipse marker: “It looks like the mast of a ship, coming right out of the sidewalk, complete with a crow’s nest, a pirate’s flag, one of Dave’s giant praying mantises and a commemorative plaque.”

Pray tell what the local artistic sculptor and jewelry maker will come up with for 2024?

An immediate challenge, however, is the center line of the next eclipse isn’t coming through Dardis’ property. In fact, the line crosses Cedar Lake in Makanda. The body of water is a 1,750-acre reservoir that was created in 1974 by the damming of Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Big Muddy River, which in turn flows into the Mississippi River.

Cedar Lake is within the Shawnee National Forest and welcomes kayaking, canoeing and fishing. The small print shows that small outboard motors are allowed (not to exceed 10 horsepower). Depending on the size of the boat, a 10-hp motor would putt-putt along at about 15 miles per hour, give or take.

That’s perfect…for the 2024 CLEF (Cedar Lake Eclipse Flotilla). For spectators, it will be a 4-minute quickie…but still a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the sky and on the water.

We’ll put a bug in the ears of Makanda Mayor Tina Shingleton as well as those of Dave Dardis. Dardis told reporter Miller that he declined the popular eclipse-driven pandemonium in 2017 to have him crowned “King of Makanda.”

He said in jest that he’d just as soon be known as “Prince Dave”…and declared the royal beverage in the Principality of Makunda to be Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Dagnabbit. That’s a man who appreciates the finer things in life.

Ready to make your solar eclipse 2024 plans to be in Makunda?

Not so fast, warns Michael Bakich. Consider all your options first, he advises…including the weather.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ready for the call to ‘play ball?’

Hooray! Major League Baseball arrives early this year. Traditional Opening Day is Friday, March 28, the earliest in the “modern era” of the game, which dates back to 1900…when the tracking of player statistics began in earnest.

There have been some “international openers” to occur earlier in past years, and 2019 is no exception, as the Oakland Athletics will play the Seattle Mariners on March 20 and 21 in Tokyo, Japan.

All 30 major league teams are scheduled to play on March 28, and that’s when the fun begins.

Rogers Hornsby of Winters, Texas, a 1942 Hall of Famer, would have loved the early start date. “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring,” he said.

Hornsby is considered to be the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history. His .358 lifetime mark for 23 big league campaigns is the highest ever for right-handed batters. He won seven National League batting titles.

On the other side of the plate, the best left-handed hitter of all time was Ty Cobb of Narrows, Ga. He played for 24 seasons in the American League, mostly with the Detroit Tigers, posting a lifetime batting average of .367. Cobb led the league in hitting 12 times. Cobb was one of six players selected in the inaugural class for the Hall of Fame in 1936.

Cobb said: “Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It’s no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out. It’s a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest.”

Another 23-year performer and Hall of Famer from the class of 1989 is Carl Yastrzemski of Bridgehampton, N.Y. He played exclusively with the Boston Red Sox in the American League. Yastrzemski was first American Leaguer to record 3,000 hits and hit 400 home runs. He finished his career with 3,419 hits, eighth most all-time.

Like Hornsby and Cobb, Yastrzemski believed baseball was his life, having said: “I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day, and I dream about it at night. The only time I don’t think about it is when I’m playing it.”

From the fan’s perspective, consider this assessment by Mary Schmich, a syndicated columnist with the Chicago Tribune: “Opening day. All you have to do is say the words…and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment.”

Every baseball player dreams of winning a World Series ring, but only one man in the history of Major League Baseball has earned 10 rings.

He was Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra of St. Louis, Mo. He played for 19 seasons, all in New York. He spent 18 years with the Yankees in the American League, and his final season as manager and part-time player was with the Mets in the National League.

One of baseball’s greatest catchers, Yogi Berra entered the Hall of Fame in 1972, as a three-time American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, with a .285 career batting average.

About the nickname: A group of boys who played American Legion baseball together in St. Louis in 1942 went to a summer afternoon movie, and the travelogue was about India, showing a yogi (one who practices yoga). Jack Maguire told his friend, Lawrence, “the guy on the screen looks like you; I’m going to start calling you ‘Yogi.’”

As a member of the Yankees, Berra helped managers Buddy Harris win the World Series in 1947 and Ralph Houck win a pair in 1961 and 1962. In between was the Casey Stengel era (a 12-year span). With Stengel at the helm, the Yankees won 10 American League championships and seven World Series titles. Those Yankee teams were loved by their fans…but hated by everyone else, especially people who rooted for Boston, Cleveland and Detroit.

Stengel hailed from Kansas City, Mo., so he and Berra had “statehood” in common. Stengel and Berra became a comedy routine, although they didn’t know it at the time. Stengel set the stage when he said baseball is a pretty simple game.” Dagnabbit, he’s right.

“There are just three things that can happen: You can win, you can lose or you can get rained out.”

So, at first, there was “Stengelese.” It was followed by “Yogi-isms,” stated Stan Silliman, an American sports humorist, who wrote a column in 2010 that was a “Casey v. Yogi” faceoff.

In spring training, Stengel would say: “All right, everybody line up alphabetically according to your height.” Yogi countered: “Pair ‘em up in threes.”

Stengel said: “Managing is getting paid for home runs someone else hits.” Berra said: “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”

Stengel said: “When you are younger, you get blamed for crimes you never committed; when you’re older, you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.”

Berra said: “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Yogi was also an economics guru: “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

Amen to that…especially at the concession stand. But what the heck: “Play ball.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New generation introduced to ‘John Deere Green’

Chip Gaines, the entrepreneurial wizard of Waco, Texas, recently flipped the switch to introduce a new generation of romantics to the classic country music love song “John Deere Green,” a relic from 1993.

On Valentine’s Day 2019, Gaines unveiled artwork on the Waco silos, professing his love for wife Joanna. There was a large heart followed by “an apostrophe and the letter ‘s’,” connecting the words Chip and Jo. Clearly, the social media-era message was “Chip loves Jo.”

They do appear to be true lovebirds, raising five children…without a television. Dagnabbit!

Chip and Joanna Gaines form an incomparable All-American couple as the brawn and brains behind the HGTV’s popular “Fixer Upper” show, which brought the network fame and fortune. At the same time, the Gaines’ have put their hometown in the international spotlight, providing a boost to Waco tourism and economic development for the city of about 250,000 people…who still cling to their rural heritage.

Chip Gaines appears to be cut out of the same cloth as Billy Bob, the daring beau of Charlene. Billy Bob is the fictional character who county artist Joe Diffie sang about when he recorded “John Deere Green” in November 1993.

Gaines’ Valentine’s Day 2019 message to Joanna was inspired by Billy Bob. In the song, he carried a big old bucket of paint one night up to the top of the town water tower.

Billy Bob was crazy in love with his high school honey Charlene. For he:

Stood on the rail and painted a 10-foot heart, in John Deere Green.
He wrote “Billy Bob loves Charlene” in letters 3-foot high,
And the whole town said that he should have used red.
But it looked good to Charlene, in John Deere Green.

Officially, the correct greenness of “John Deere” green is PMS 364 C. The color formula is “65 cyan, 0 magenta, 100 yellow and 42 black.” Did you know the world’s palette of ink colors can be made by jiggling the blends of just four “primary colors?”

It’s all part of the Pantone Matching System (PMS) that has been adopted by the printing industry as the “standardized color reproduction system.”

David Himmel, an author and humorist living in Chicago, firmly believes “John Deere Green,” “is the greatest country song ever.” On his blog, Literate Ape, Himmel proclaimed: “Pantone 364 C is the color of love.”

Himmel and his wife, Katie, enjoy discovering Midwestern taverns that still have working jukeboxes. On a date in 2017, Katie made the music selections, and Himmel was stunned by the sound of “John Deere Green” – first time he had ever heard it.

“It was the most incredible early-nineties country song I’d ever heard…penned by country songwriter extraordinaire Dennis Linde, who also wrote ‘Burning Love’ for Elvis Presley and ‘Goodbye Earl’ for the Dixie Chicks.”

Linde died in 2006 at the age of 63, but during his career, more than 250 of his songs were recorded by various artists over a 45-year period.

In Himmel’s mind, “John Deere Green” covers all the bases; it has “everything a country song needs to shine – a small town, teenagers in love, mischief, nostalgia and tractors or trucks.”

The song goes on to share that Billy Bob and Charlene settled down together on 80 acres “to raise sweet corn, kids and tomatoes.” From their front yard, on a clear day, that water tower is visible, and so are the words “Billy Bob loves Charlene in John Deere Green.”

Himmel wrote: “It’s a sweet story. It makes me think fondly of my wife’s origins and my in-laws. Katie’s parents met in high school, quickly fell in love, got married and had four kids. They live in the same town where they grew up and in the house where her dad was raised. It is…a magnificent and simple American love story for the ages.”

Back in Waco, Chip and Joanna Gaines are totally invested. Journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner interviewed them for a recent article in Texas Monthly magazine. She reported:

“They opened Magnolia Market at the Silos in October 2015. The pair of 120-foot tall silos, along with a 20,000-square-foot barn, were part of the old Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Mill, which began operation in 1910, processing cottonseed to make all kinds of byproducts, including vegetable shortening, margarine and salad oil.

Eventually, business soured; the facility stood abandoned since the 1990s. Chip and Joanna Gaines purchased the property in 2014, with “a vision to restore and repurpose the historic site,” to spur development of Waco as “a cultural and heritage destination.”

The silos had weathered and were regarded by most as “an ugly eyesore and a blight on the downtown area.” Paint them, please, city officials begged. Joanna said no: “They’re beautiful the way they are.”

Carla Pendergraft of the Waco tourism office replied to Brodesser-Akner: “I think that’s what Joanna does. She makes things wanted that were once unwanted.”

Leave it to Chip to sneak in through the backdoor and apply paint on one of the silos – or hire it done – as his Valentine’s Day affirmation of love…in a color he swears is “John Deere Green.”

And like Charlene, Joanne declared the silos are now even more beautiful the way they are now.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Does N.C. need an official fried chicken festival?

 North Carolina needs a new state festival to honor “fried chicken,” according to Representative Elmer Floyd, D-Fayetteville.

He introduced House Bill 256 on March 5, asking the General Assembly to adopt the yet-to-be-created Fayetteville Fried Chicken Festival as the “Official Fried Chicken Festival of the State of North Carolina.”

Poppycock. The Fayetteville Fried Chicken Festival is imaginary. Is it a case of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg or the chicken festival?” Dagnabbit, y’all.

The start date for the Fayetteville Fried Chicken Festival in the City of Fayetteville would be the third weekend of May in 2021, and it would be held “annually thereafter,” Rep. Floyd noted.

He introduced a similar bill two years ago, and Paul Woolverton, a staff writer at the Fayetteville Observer, cracked open the story before the festival plan had a chance to hatch on its own.

Woolverton reported that the idea originated with Bill McMillan of the Fayetteville Area Hospitality Association.

Rep. Floyd’s bill references “fast facts” from the North Carolina Poultry Federation (NCPF), based in Raleigh, to assert that the poultry industry is a big deal in North Carolina. No question.

The poultry industry’s economic impact in the state is reported to be more than $36.6 billion a year, accounting for approximately 127,000 jobs for North Carolinians.

Poultry products combine to form North Carolina’s leading agricultural commodity. Hogs are in second place. Nationally, North Carolina ranks third in total poultry production. (It’s always a toss-up, but typically, Georgia ranks first with Arkansas second, reports Bob Ford, executive director of the NCPF.)

The federation says the average American consumes 90 pounds of chicken, 17 pounds of turkey and 240 eggs per year. Americans eat chicken more than any other meat, and as Rep. Floyd points out “one of the best-known poultry dishes is fried chicken, which is a common staple in many Southern households.”

Perhaps it is right and good to applaud poultry, especially on National Poultry Day – Tuesday, March 19. (It is right and good to “Eat Mor Chikin,” so say the Chick-fil-A cows.)

However, there already are three up-and-running real annual festivals in North Carolina that pay homage to poultry. Is Rep. Floyd’s bill fowl play?

One. The original festival of this ilk is the North Carolina Poultry Jubilee in Rose Hill, a small town in Duplin County. Its roots date back to 1963 when Dennis Ramsey of Ramsey Feed Co. commissioned the construction of the “World’s Largest Frying Pan”…that really works…as a tribute to the importance of the poultry industry.

The Rose Hill cast iron frying pan measures 15 feet in diameter and weighs 2 tons. It holds 200 gallons of cooking oil and can fry 365 chickens at a time. The giant, propane-fueled frying pan has a 6-foot handle sticking out to one side, for authenticity’s sake…not that anyone could ever lift the dad-gum thing.

When it’s time to cook, Rose Hill’s volunteer firefighters are up early in the morning to man their stations, constantly stirring with their pitchforks.

The two-day jubilee occurs this year on Nov. 1 and 2. The jubilee committee operates under the wing of the Rose Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber leader Mandy James describes opening day: “By mid-morning the whole town smells like fried chicken, and by 11 a.m. that first batch of golden, crunchy, tender, moist, and oh so delicious Jubilee Fried Chicken is just right and ready to sink your teeth into.”

Duplin County Tourism promotes pairing fried chicken with wines made from the region’s famous muscadine grape vineyards. Come to Duplin to “Uncork. Unwind. Unplug.”

Two. The North Carolina Turkey Festival was created in the community of Raeford in Hoke County in the mid-1980s. The event is now known as the NC Fall Festival, but the focal point continues to pay tribute to the value of turkey production in the area. The state turkey cooking contest is the centerpiece of the annual celebration that occurs in September.

Three. In Wayne County, the community of Goldsboro’s “Beak Week” has been transfigured into the North Carolina Poultry Festival. This year’s event is Saturday, Sept. 7, in downtown Goldsboro. The festival showcases local artisans, vendors and “all the chicken and turkey you can eat.” Patrons flock to the Food Cluck Rodeo.

The organizing committee is a diverse private-public partnership, aligned under the umbrella of “Visit Goldsboro. Be More. Do More. Seymour.” The festival itself is fully aligned with marketing game plan to leverage the community’s assets of “4 Ps: pigs, pickles, planes and poultry.”

Regarding the future of H.B. 256, there were a lot of “peeps and tweets” among the legislators. Perhaps the most memorable comment came from Rep. Grier Martin, D-Raleigh, who said: “Not sure this bill is going anywhere. Best not count chickens before they hatch.”

What makes ‘The Old North State’ unique?

Will a bill proposed in the North Carolina General Assembly to specify “The Old North State” as the official state nickname gain any tract...