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Grifton's Shad Festival marks 49th year

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Couples dance the shag to the sounds of hometown favorite Silver Wings at the 49th Shad Festival in Grifton on Friday night.


By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Times-Leader

Monday, April 15, 2019

GRIFTON — The 49th Shad Festival wrapped up Saturday after several days of music, fun and food for everyone.

“Except for the weather, it’s been great,” said Tommy Sugg, festival chairman on Saturday. “We had a good turnout for the parade. … Nighttime (Friday) was a good day. The rides did well. The bands did excellent; had a big crowd. Everybody had a good time.”

Grifton Mayor Billy Ray Jackson hoped for a better turnout but was pleased with attendance.

“I’m so thankful to everybody that came,” he said. “We had a threat of rain about all day, but it turned out all we got was a good, cold wind and a sprinkle.”

The festival started April 6 with its annual Shad Queen pageant and continued through the week with the Fishy Tales and Ms. Gizzard Contests and amusements and rides starting on Thursday. The festival featured lots of live entertainment and street vendors starting on Friday and a parade on Saturday.

Unfortunately, due to rainy weather, a few events set for Saturday didn’t happen, including the Run the Gauntlet 5K and the helicopter rides.

Music was the biggest draw with people coming from across Pitt County and beyond to listen to hometown favorites, such as Silver Wings of Grifton, and classic rock groups, such as Jesse Bolt who first performed in Grifton in the 1970s. Later, they toured with Kiss, Black Sabbath and more.

The rides were popular, especially with children. Cammy Armstrong of Greenville works at the Grifton post office, and when she saw the rides, she knew she had to take her grandkids.

“I saw the Fun Slide when I was leaving (work),” she said. “I knew I just had to go pick (my grandkids) up and bring them back.”

Battle twins, A’livia and A’moria, also came to the festival with their grandmother, Sherry Dixon.

“I climbed the wall,” A’moria said. “It was fun but really scary!”

A’livia added, “It was really hard.”

But the real star of the show is the Shad. Grifton Lions Club was serving up bowls of the popular fish stew made by boiling the fish with onions and potatoes.

Carson Cornwell, 11, has been to the festival with her father, Ayden-Grifton football coach Paul Cornwell, a few times before, but this was her first time ever having shad stew.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth,” she said.

The Shad Festival, Pitt County’s oldest street festival, will celebrate its 50th year in 2020, and Sugg and his committee have some tricks up their sleeves.

“We’ve been preparing for two years now,” he said. “The theme is Mo Town, but not just the music. It’s a reference to our mascot, Mo the Shad.”

The Times Leader serves southern Pitt County including the towns of Ayden, Grifton and Winterville.