Herring festival marks 69th year of homecomings, fun
By Deborah Griffin
Enterprise & Weekly Herald
Saturday, March 31, 2018
JAMESVILLE — For many, the 69th Herring Festival is both a nod to the past and a way to unite the community.
“It symbolizes our idea of a former heritage,” said Jackie Gillam, resident of Jamesville and Herring Festival committee member.
The N.C. Herring Festival is one of the longest running festivals in North Carolina, according to Sharon Britt, Chairman of the Herring Festival Committee.
The festival started out as local families gathering on the Monday after Easter, because many in eastern N.C. had the day off as a holiday. Families that would come home for Easter stayed over through Monday.
“It was like a homecoming of sorts,” said Britt, who moved to Jamesville in 2006.
She has heard the stories of how practically the whole town would gather on the banks of the Roanoke.
“They would salt (herring) and put them up for the rest of the year because there is such a short season,” Britt said. “It started out as people coming together to supply each other’s needs.”
Now there is a federal moratorium on catching the boney fish. And the festival is a Friday through Saturday affair.
Molly Long, a festival committee member, said the event has changed a lot. Still, residents always have looked forward to the festival, she said.
“We are a small town, and we are a close-knit community,” she said.
These days there is more planning, more organization and, unfortunately, according to the N.C. Fisheries Association, fewer fish in the water.
Ten years ago, the N.C. Fisheries and Wildlife Commission put a moratorium on catching herring in North Carolina.
“It is very controversial as you can imagine,” Britt said. The town was stripped of something that formally defined it.
“Where a lot of families have fried chicken for Sunday lunch, (Jamesville residents) had fried herring on Sundays. It was a staple,” she said.
Despite the moratorium, the herring festival has grown in size and attendance.
The whole weekend is filled with music, food, rides and a multitude of vendors. The fun is for all ages.
Britt said motorists should be aware that Main Street will be closed through midnight tonight.
■ Jamesville Fire and Rescue will host a fundraiser pancake breakfast from 6 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. The cost is $7.
■ The Herring Festival parade will begin at 10 a.m. The lineup will be at 9:30 a.m. at Jamesville Elementary School.
■ Immediately following the parade, there will be an opening ceremony and prayer. Victoria Huggins, reigning Miss North Carolina, will perform the National Anthem.
■ One of the highlights of the festival will be the display of an enormous, 50-foot by 80-foot United States flag, provided by Ray Bowen and WoodmenLife.
“All military men and women, both current and Veterans, are asked to help with the display of this flag,” Britt said.
■ After the opening ceremony, there will be an Easter egg hunt with more than 3,500 eggs hidden at Tammy’s Plant House, 1950 Main St. There will be one hunt for younger children and one for older children. The egg hunt is for children ages 2 to 12.
■ At 11 a.m., there will be an Easter bonnet contest.
■ At 11:30 a.m. the Jamesville Christian Church Children’s Choir will play. At noon, Servant’s Song will perform. At 1 p.m., Dry Creek will take the stage. At 2 p.m., Clyde Felton and Spiritual Journey will play. At 3 p.m., Sarah Hardison Harris takes the stage, and at 3:30 p.m., the Patriots, a band from the 1960s that has regrouped, will perform and the crowds will take to the streets and dance.
■ The night ends with fireworks at sundown provided by Jamesville Fire and Rescue.
Deborah Griffin can be reached at email@example.com.