Overcast skies dampen attendance
By Steve Reed
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SELMA — Overcast skies and misty rain may have dampened attendance, but not the enthusiasm displayed Saturday at the 43rd annual Selma Railroad Days Festival.
Parks and Recreation Director Joe Carter estimated the crowd at 5,000.
“Weather was a big factor in a drop of attendance,” said Carter. “ I think Florence aftereffects hurt us as well. I think it went very well. I feel the food truck rodeo on Friday night is adding to the festival. The addition of the concert that night was also a plus. The barbecue cook-off was awesome as well and thanks to all the fire departments who participated.”
Selma Town Manager Elton Daniels and his wife Michelle brought their 3-month-old daughter Cadence to her first Railroad Days.
“Railroad Days is all about the town,” said Daniels. “It’s a pleasure to serve here and the town’s new logo, ‘The Crossroads of Tradition and Innovation,’ reflects our community.”
Mayor Cheryl Oliver said Selma has become “a happening place.”
“ A Railroad Days attendee described it as ‘Selma has woken up,’” Oliver explained. “ Instead of a static list of annual seasonal events, we now have a wide variety of events for all ages and interests throughout the year. Even though new events will continue to be added on an ongoing basis, our Selma Railroad Days Festival will always remain one of our premiere events because of its tie to our heritage as a railroad town. In the years ahead when commuter rail come to Selma, the influence of the railroad in shaping Selma will continue to be felt.”
Oliver said this year’s Railroad Days had expanded its offerings.
“Our parks and recreation staff did a marvelous job planning and managing the events. Every other town department, along with many sponsors, supported the event in some way.,” said Oliver. “This was definitely a Team Selma event aimed at providing a fun, entertaining and educational time for our citizens and visitors. “
Before the parade, 20-year-old Jacob Gonzalez was the overall male winner in the Boys & Girls Club Selma Railroad Days 5K run with a time of 16 minutes, 34 seconds. The overall female winner was 31-year-old was Anne Maust of Garner with a finishing time of 21 minutes, 44 seconds.
There were 169 entries in the 5K, ranging in age from 3 to 74.
Hector the Dolphin, Smithfield Elementary School’s mascot, defeated other school and business mascots in a dance contest and footrace in front of Selma Town Hall.
Crowds lined North Raiford Street as the 10:30 a.m. parade, led by Selma police, made its way toward Anderson Street.
Former Selma mayor and 2018 Grand Marshal Charles Hester and his wife Barbetta greeted crowds from a police cruiser.
“Being grand marshal is a nice honor,” said Hester. “It was a good parade even though crowds were down.”
Spectators enjoyed themselves.
“We do it every year,” said Lisa Ives of Smithfield. She brought her 5-year-old son Easton and was accompanied by her mother, Gail Austin from Four Oaks. “Easton loves it best when the floats throw out the candy.”
Parade highlights included the Smithfield-Selma Spartans percussion band, American Legion Post 141 motorcyclists, Mayor Oliver and members of the town council on a trolley waving and throwing candy out to the crowd, the Dunn Shrine Clowns and the Johnston County Sudan animals.
Spectators brought their pets, including 14-year-old Dory, a dachshund owned by Louise Carter of Smithfield. Dory enjoyed treats including french fries and funnel cake. “She likes the food,” said Carter.
“It’s been a nice crowd, although not as many as last year,” said John Wiggs of Selma. “But we’ve had good food and everyone seems to be having a good time.”
During the opening ceremonies, Oliver led the crowd in a prayer in which she thanked God for the opportunity created by Railroad Days “for friends, family and new people to remember Selma’s heritage as a railroad town.
“Selma is a wonderful place to live, work and play,” said Mayor Pro-tem Jackie Lacy. “At the new Harrison Road tennis courts, with tennis lessons, I might become the next Serena Williams.”
A new court at the Harrison Center for Active Aging was recently named in Lacy’s honor.