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  • Writer's pictureCrystal Faircloth

N.C. Yam Fest Celebrates 51st Year

Saturday marks the 51st year for the N.C. Yam Festival in Tabor City.

This year, the town is looking forward to things to come with their newest theme, “Back to the Future.” Though the sweet potato celebration is the main event, many smaller gatherings and highlights will be going on throughout the day.

The festival’s headquarters, the Tabor City Public Library, will open their doors from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. where youngsters can visit the facility and pick up their free Yam Fest coloring and activity book. The library will also have t-shirts and other souvenirs up for grabs throughout the day.

Tabor City High School alumni from all graduating classes are invited out to a reunion at the Ritz Center on Saturday. The class of 1972 will oversee the event. Registration will be from 8-10 a.m., and doors will open again shortly before 2 p.m. The gathering will conclude at 4 p.m.

There is no better time to donate blood than during the Yam Festival. The Blood Connection will be parked near the library at 101 East Fifth Street from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Donations are encouraged to help combat diseases like sickle cell anemia, cancer, thrombocytopenia, and other conditions that require blood transfusion therapy. Give the gift of life and receive a free $20 eGift card for your participation. Appointments may be made, and all walk-ins are welcome.

A car, truck, bike, and tractor show will be hosted by Jokers Mizfitz Car Club on Fourth Street (from Hickman Road to Pireway Road) the day of the festival. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the show will be from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Call 843.333.0947 or 910.252.226.6547 for more information.

Arts, crafts, entertainment, and food vendors will be set up on Main Street, Hickman Road, and Live Oak Street at 9 a.m. Saturday. There is no vendor fee, but participants are asked to call Chairwoman Michelle Dudney at 910.207.3190. The event committee is also looking for food vendors for the celebration. Anyone interested in selling good eats should contact Miranda Thompkins at 910.840.0567.

The Yam Festival parade will be marching in at 10 a.m. on Oct. 22. More than 100 units of first responders, beauty queens, mascots, Shriners, emergency vehicles, high school bands, and so much more will be making their way through town. The route will start at Seventh and Main Streets, go down Main Street, turn left onto Green Sea Road, then right onto Hickman Road, left onto Bell Street, then left onto Pireway Road, left onto Fifth Street, and right onto Wall Street before disassembling. Be sure to bring your chair and something to stash candy in.

The traditional sweet potato giveaway will take place after the parade in the parking lot of the Tabor City Public Library (aka Yam Fest Headquarters). Bags will be provided thanks to Tabor City IGA. The sweet potatoes were grown right down the road and purchased from Hunter McPherson Farms.

Entertainment will take place all day during the festival. Activities will begin following the parade and will continue until 5 p.m. Expect to enjoy lots of locals as they sing and dance their way into your hearts.

The Kids Zone will be located on Live Oak Street. Flimsy the Clown, carnival games, inflatables, exhibits, educational outreach, face painting, and more will be available for children to enjoy.

A gospel explosion will begin after the parade on Hickman Road. Various churches and singers will be presenting Gospel music with their praise teams and other organizational members. For additional information, call Committee Chair Tervon Strickland at 910.234.0752.

The annual art, photography, and sweet potato craft show will begin at the Tabor City Baptist Church fellowship hall at 11 a.m. Local artists and residents will be presenting their works in adult and youth divisions until 4:30 p.m.

Be sure to get out there and take in some historical knowledge while you’re in town on Saturday. The Mt. Tabor one-room schoolhouse will be open for visitors from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., and maps for an archival self-guided tour of Tabor City will be available at the visitor center and at the library.

The rest of the afternoon will be dedicated to competitions on Yam Day. Starting at 11:30 a.m., the Todd House Wedding and Event Center Stage will host a sweet potato pie eating contest. Adult and youth competitors are invited to participate. Those who wish to do so need to register before Oct. 21 by calling the N.C. Yam Festival office.

Tabor City EMS will be hosting the Basic Life Support competition. The annual tradition will take place at the station located at the corner of East Fifth and Jones Streets from 1-3 p.m.

The first annual Mascot Race is set for 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Tabor City Public Library. Mascots from area festivals, schools, and businesses will race with a sweet potato on a serving spoon to the finish line. The first one who makes it without dropping the sweet potato wins. Call the Yam Festival Office at 910.377.3248 to register your organization for the race.

The Stallion Classic high school band competition starts at 1 p.m. at the South Columbus High School football field. The kids will duke it out with musical stylings and routines to take home the trophy. The school is located at 40 Stallion Drive in Tabor City.

As the day winds down, the talent show takes center stage at the festival. Tabor’s Got Talent will feature locals singing, dancing, performing feats, and entertaining the masses. Judges will decide the winner at the end of the show. The competition begins at 3 p.m. at the main stage.

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