Local law enforcement officials were up early, stayed hydrated, and remained late to handle traffic and crowd control to ensure that the Pittsboro Summer Fest held on July 1st was a good experience for all.
With quotes like “top notch music”, “a good opportunity to enjoy family entertainment in Pittsboro without having to travel”, and “such a great event”, the consensus on the street was that the “Pittsboro Summer Fest” version 3.0 was a scorching success.
And “scorching” was the operative word as visitors and locals alike all broke a sweat together and collectively experienced the true meaning of a July “heat index” in the North Carolina Piedmont.
While local musicians such as “The Dowdy Boys”, “The Unmentionables”, and “Liquid Pleasure” blazed through their sets entertaining a diverse crowd, the community found a way to forget their problems for a day and enjoy each other’s company. A phenomenon best summarized by local business owner, Paige Skelton of Cackalacky, who opined, “This is exactly why we love to call Pittsboro home. All kinds of folks having all kinds of fun.”
Greg Lewis, the owner of the Pittsboro Roadhouse and a board member of Main Street Pittsboro, thought it was one of the biggest crowds he had seen in downtown Pittsboro and said, “Our laser light company guessed seven to eight thousand people were there at 9 pm for Liquid Pleasure and the laser show. It was amazing to see all of those people on Hillsboro Street.”
Longtime Chathamite Laura Lauffer thought so as well and said, “I think for the Fall Festival we should open up main street and the businesses just like Summer Fest”.
Attendees were pleased to see a diverse crowd from Chatham County and beyond enjoying the music and a downtown filled with happy people young and old.
To that point, local Pittsboro artist and musician, John Makowski, was moved to observe, “This is as close as I have seen Pittsboro be a community that is pulling together. This is the kind of event that the community needs more of–seeing your neighbors out and being a part of a bigger community.”
Of course it wasn’t just the locals who felt the vibe while braving the weather.
“It is really nice to see a small town come together,” said Nancy Martin of Raleigh, “we are all supporting the local businesses and bearing the heat together.”
Martin was with her friend Kitty Mecham, who is the owner of the Hillsboro Street arts emporium Liquidambar Gallery. Like many, they ended their evening South of the circle at The Modern Life Deli known locally as “The Mod” to enjoy the atmosphere, cool drinks and the most luxurious of all modern conveniences: air conditioning.
Summer Fest was a culmination of planning, cooperation, and execution by the Town of Pittsboro, Chatham County, the Pittsboro Business Association and Main Street Pittsboro, who pulled together to shut down Hillsboro Street and create an event that was family friendly and a great reflection of the Circle City (Pittsboro) and Chatham County.
Chatham Transit provided shuttles to park and ride locations at Alpha Center, CCCC and Pittsboro Pet Supply, while many others such as local artist and educator Linda Collura and her partner George DeSocio walked from their nearby homes.
The credit for the event’s success will be shared by many with specific kudos to Maria Parker-Lewis, a board member of the Pittsboro Business Association (“PBA”) and the President of Main Street Pittsboro, and Pam Fulk, for pulling together a team of volunteers who braved the heat to create a beautiful event for the community.
“This is why I love working in Pittsboro.” said John Poteat, who is the Public Works Director for the Town of Pittsboro.
Many downtown businesses were open for business and local businesses were staffing booths to supply food, drink, and merriment to throngs of people who reclaimed Hillsboro Street from automobiles from 4 pm to 9 pm.
Chatham County Commissioner James Crawford was there with his wife Maureen Ahmad running a booth as the owner/operators of the artisanal beverage producer, Chatham Cider Works. Crawford was so busy he had to dash to his cidery in the Chatham Beverage District twice in order to restock supplies. While catching his breath he had this to say while supplying another serving of cider to a parched festival goer, “Summer Fest is the best way to share good times and good cider with the people of Chatham.”
With the heat bearing down, Crawford’s spot was the place to be for a refreshing beverage, good conversation and some shade. Main Street Pittsboro Board Member and Pittsboro Town Commissioner, Michael Fiocco, found it to be a good vantage point to survey the event as did Erica Patsis of the Pittsboro Roadhouse and her husband Oren Moore, who amazingly managed four small children and kept the family organized amidst the din and chaos.
Moore, a small business owner, and his wife, Erica, moved to the area a few years ago from Las Vegas and said, “We look forward to Summer Fest every year.”
When asked “why?” Moore replied, “I love supporting our Town. It’s nice to finally be a part of something special. And coming from a large city it’s great to be part of a small community.”
Naturally, they were not the only parents with children and experiencing the atmosphere as Selbe Bartlett stated, “We have been here since 4 pm and we are in it for the long haul–even with the heat. What I love about the event is that my kids have the freedom to roam and explore Summer Fest.”
And what were those kids untethered from parents and electronic devices exploring?
A decorated bicycle parade, a peach pie perfection baking contest, great local entertainment on stage, a giant water slide, pie throwing, chicken bingo, a dunking booth, a good old fashioned watermelon seed spitting contest, and much, much more.
Selbe was on the street all day to bear witness to the fun while soaking up sunshine with her husband, Mike Dasher, who is a County Commissioner and a board member of Main Street Pittsboro. Dasher has an office downtown in the Blair Hotel, which allows him to observe daily the comings and goings around Pittsboro’s famous traffic circle. He enjoyed the event and shared that “Pittsboro has done it right with Summer Fest.”
Others felt the same way, too, as Jan Nichols, the Chair of the Chatham County Democratic Party, thought Summer Fest was “impressive” and she was especially happy that the event was family-friendly including pets as she navigated the crowd with her dog, Shadow.
As the sun began to set and the laser light show danced off the buildings of downtown Pittsboro, Jan walked Shadow to “the Mod” for dinner while Selbe corralled her children and husband for their trip back to Moncure.
Another Summer Fest was complete with folks clamoring for more and the sun disappearing in the West. “Our kids really enjoyed Summer Fest” said local resident Rick Parks, “we can see it gaining momentum.”
Written by Randy Voller. Photos by Bett Wilson Foley.
– From the July 2018 issue of The Chatham County Line