Wednesday, May 4, 2022

North Carolina Pickle Festival

With our new wheels we decided to head to Mount Olive, North Carolina for the Pickle Festival. Mt. Olive pickles happen to be my favorites, so what could be better than a pickle festival in the town where they are made? After a two year hiatus due to Covid-19, the festival was able to resume it's 35 year history.

We arrived on the 22nd so we could have some time to visit the town of Mount Olive before all the crowds arriving the next day. I'm glad we did as we were able to view the downtown area and the murals unobstructed. That would not have been possible the next day.

Mount Olive, North Carolina
After spending the night in nearby Goldsboro, we drove back to Mount Olive early in the morning as we knew parking was going to be a challenge. We had to park at the University of Mount Olive, where they were providing shuttle buses to take festival-goers to and from the downtown area. That actually worked out pretty well. 

The festival consisted of pickle packing and eating contests, a small carnival, a tractor show as well as a car show, and free pickle samples. Rows upon rows of vendors tempted attendees with all kinds of food, beverages, art, and trinkets. By the time noon arrived, it was incredibly packed in the area. (I read later that it was the largest attendance in the history of the festival!) We lasted until around 1:00, and then took a bus back to our car.
North Carolina Pickle Festival

From Mount Olive we drove to New Bern, North Carolina for a few days. To the left is a beautiful field we passed along the way. I had said once we retired that my motto is "Make the U-turn". When I passed this scene, I made a u-turn so we could go back and photograph it. It was worth it!

We had heard a lot about the colorful little town of New Bern, which was settled by Swiss immigrants in 1710. They named the town after the capital of Switzerland. New Bern is the second-oldest European-Colonial town in North Carolina, and was once the state's capital. It is also the birthplace of Pepsi Cola. Invented in 1893 by Caleb Brandham at his drug store in town, it was originally called Brad's Drink. He renamed it Pepsi-Cola in 1898. In 1902, the Pepsi-Cola Company was formed with Brandham serving as the first president. 

We stayed at a wonderful VRBO condo, which was located on a harbor along the Neuse River. It was perfect for us with a great water view (as seen below), indoor and outdoor pools, and tennis courts which were striped for pickleball. The little duck family outside our unit were an added bonus, as was the ability to catch the sunsets from the dock.
views by our unit

We very much enjoyed New Bern. It's very historical and well-maintained. The downtown streets contained a lot of unique shops and restaurants, and the old churches and cemeteries were interesting to explore. If you are so inclined, you can seek out the more than 50 fiberglass bears which were installed in 2010 for the town's 300th birthday. Hand-painted by local artists, they are scattered throughout the area. It reminded me a lot of the painted cakes put out in St. Louis as a celebration for the city's 250th birthday. These types of installations are a great way to not only get people excited about learning the history of the area, but also encouraging them to visit sites they might not otherwise think to go and see. We did not go bear hunting, but did photograph the ones we came across.

New Bern, North Carolina
Pickles and bears - a winning combination!

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