Heritage Day draws a crowd

Published 7:02 pm Monday, September 19, 2022

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The 28th annual Heritage Day in Courtland was a notable success Saturday, Sept. 10, as organizers expressed excitement with the level of attendance and the opportunities to engage and educate some of the young visitors at the Southampton Heritage Village/Agriculture & Forestry Museum.

The event was sponsored by the village, the museum and the Southampton County Historical Society.

“We could not have had better weather,” said Lynda T. Updike, an organizer of the event. “We were pleased with the attendance, especially considering all the other activities going on throughout the day. We had (about) 900 paying adults, 150 school-age kids and many preschoolers, who were not counted. 

“In addition, we had 40 crafters, over 100 volunteers, including all of the museum steering committee, their spouses, children and grandchildren,” she continued. “And they seemed to have as much fun as our visitors.

“Also, we had more Southampton County employees volunteering than ever, including our new county administrator, Brian Thrower, planning commissioners and members of the Board of Supervisors,” she said.

Updike, who is the Newsoms District supervisor, managed the petting zoo that included a variety of animals one often finds on the farm.

In conversations with people who stopped by the zoo, Updike said she learned that folks attending Heritage Day were not just local but came from a variety of places outside of Southampton County too, including, but not limited to, Windsor, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Richmond and even North Carolina towns like Chapel Hill, Woodland and Ahoskie.

Heritage Day ran from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Updike noted that it had an impressive opening ceremony, with the Boy Scouts raising the flag, Elisha Barnes singing the national anthem, everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and Hoyle Green saying a prayer.

As for attendance throughout the day, “the crowd started out slow, but it continued to increase, and by noon there were no parking spaces left,” Updike said. “People were parking along the streets, and by 2-3 p.m. we ran out of food and had sold all of the meal that they had corn to grind.”

She said that the crowd thinned out by 3:30 p.m.

“My animals in the petting zoo were exhausted by that time and were asleep,” she said.

The event offered something of interest for all ages, she noted, adding that all the activities offered were appealing to some. 

“Many enjoyed the music, others the cracklings and lye soap, and some came for the crafts,” she said. “Kids enjoyed the old skills of driving nails, drilling holes in boards with an auger. For many locals it was an opportunity in a relaxed atmosphere to see former classmates, friends and neighbors.”

A flintknapper who engaged visitors at the event through hands-on demonstrations shared how excited he was to have a family, with four children, come back to his booth three times during the day to learn more about what he does.

He said he taught the children how to break down dogbane weed stalks to fibers and twist up cordage. He also gave them a demo on flint and steel fire making, and after one of the children helped out, she yelled excitedly to her mother, “Mama! I made fire!”

Updike noted that her grandson, David Cuthbertson, discovered hominy during the event.

As noted at Dictionary.com, hominy is whole or ground hulled corn from which the bran and germ have been removed by bleaching the whole kernels in a lye bath or by crushing and sifting.

Updike said David came back to the petting zoo and said, “Grandma, there is something down there that looks like beans, and it is really good. Do you want me to bring you some?”

“I realized it was the hominy and told him I had cooked it,” she said. “He said, ‘Well, we will have to cook it again.’”

Updike indicated that her favorite part of the event was the petting zoo.

“Anyone who knows me knows I love animals, and I love kids, so the petting zoo appeals to me,” she said. “I have had a petting zoo at all 28 Heritage Days. My husband, who recently passed away, has always helped me, but this year I flew solo.”

With an eye toward the 29th Heritage Day, Updike said, “We are always looking for new and different activities to showcase and welcome suggestions — and volunteers.”