The North Carolina Pickle Festival will look and feel quite different for 2021. The festival marks its 35th year, however, with the same spirit of family fun, community, and, well, love of pickles.
Organizers have announced a mix of in-person and virtual events for the 2021 edition, headlined by a virtual pickle eating contest. Other events include an online pickle recipe contest, in person and virtual versions of the Cuke Patch 5K run through downtown Mount Olive, and a Friday night drive-in movie.
“The traditional street festival full of vendors, activities and entertainment drawing thousands of people to downtown Mount Olive is not possible because of the COVID19 pandemic,” said Julie Beck, co-chairman of the N.C. Pickle Festival. “That doesn’t mean we still can’t have a good time and safely celebrate our community. The virtual events actually give us a chance to broaden our reach to pickle fans all over the US. And that’s a good thing.”
A call for entries for the Pickle Eating Contest went out March 17 on the festival’s social media channels. Potential contestants are asked to create a brief video describing why they should be chosen to compete, and tag #NCPickleEatingContest. The deadline for entries is March 24. Semifinalists will be randomly chosen from those submissions, and online voting will determine the top 12 finalists and three alternates. The actual contest will be held live online via Zoom.
The festival is also seeking entries to its online recipe contest, planned with the assistance of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. The deadline for entries in the appetizer, dessert, main dish and beverage categories is April 5.
For the Cuke Patch 5K, which has been part of the festival for years, participants can run on Saturday morning, April 24, in one of four different heats designed to provide social distancing. Or, participants can run their own 5K route anytime during festival week and tag their photos at #NCPFCukePatch. The festival will award prizes in each heat for the best individual and group costumes, and for the best virtual individual costume. A portion of the run proceeds will go to the Mount Olive Parks & Recreation Department, another festival tradition.
The drive-in movie is planned for the Town of Mount Olive’s Daughtry Field and will feature food trucks, candy, popcorn and drinks. Admission will be five cans of food per person for the Make a Difference Food Pantry of Mount Olive.
Movie-goers can stay in their cars, or bring their lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the movie while following social distancing guidelines. The name of the movie can’t be publicly announced per the licensing agreement, but the movie is the 2019, family-friendly-story of everyone’s favorite lion cub.
Complete details of these events are on the festival’s website, http://www.ncpicklefest.org/.
Other festival activities in the works include a virtual fund drive benefitting Communities Supporting Schools of Wayne County, and a walking history tour of downtown Mount Olive coordinated by Steele Memorial Library and the Mount Olive Historical Society. Ms. Beck noted that last year’s North Carolina Pickle Festival, canceled entirely because of the COVID19 pandemic, would have helped celebrate the Town of Mount Olive’s 150th anniversary in 2020.
While the 2021 festival will be unlike any in the festival’s history, at least in one way it remains the same.
“For pretty much every festival, we try some new thing that we’ve never done before,” Ms. Beck said with a laugh. “That makes this year’s festival in line with the rest.”