Mount Olive’s historic attractions, unique shops, and proximity to outdoor activities make it the perfect spot for a peaceful North Carolina vacation. The city’s downtown area is a great destination for history buffs, and includes four locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From kayaking on the Neuse River at the Cliffs of Neuse State Park to participating in one of the community’s large festivals, Mount Olive has something for everyone.
The North Carolina Pickle Festival has been one of the top spring events in North Carolina since its inception more than 30 years ago. The family-friendly event will take place on April 29, at locations scattered throughout the downtown area. The event serves a dual purpose as a celebration for Mount Olive Pickles and the community in general. Attendees have the opportunity to enjoy the Cuke Patch 5K (run/walk), Tour de Pickle (scenic bicycle tour), chili cook-off, car show, and a variety of live entertainment on three stages. Attendees will also encounter an artisan village featuring plenty of handmade goods and art. Proceeds from the event go right back into the community with donations to the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce and Waylin Area Foundation. We got the chance to interview Lynn Williams, Public Relations Manager for the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc., to talk about this great family experience.
RAL: Tell us a bit about the event?
LW: The award-winning North Carolina Pickle Festival is in its 31st year. Set in the charming downtown area of Mount Olive, tens of thousands attend annually. We primarily draw families with children and grandchildren. Our festival has been described as part street fair, part festival, and part family reunion. We celebrate our most famous product, Mt. Olive Pickles, but we also celebrate our hometown. Everyone is welcome to experience it!
RAL: Take me through a day at the event?
LW: One of the secrets to our longevity is always working to provide something new and different each year while holding onto our festival favorites. You can try your hand at packing pickles, and eat all the free pickles you like. You can also browse one of the largest classic car shows in Eastern North Carolina and take in the University of Mount Olive’s Artisan Village. We also have the three stages of live entertainment, food vendors, carnival rides, Circus Stella (one-ring circus), along with roaming characters and performers. In short, the festival has something for everyone. New this year is the Got to Be NC Pavilion, which features a dozen North Carolina-made foods and products, and the people who make them. Also new to the event is a festival mobile app, which enables you to track festival offerings in real time on Saturday. You can also ride the Tour de Pickle first thing Saturday morning, with 25, 50, and 70-mile routes through scenic Wayne, Duplin, and Sampson counties.
RAL: What will attendees find for dining options?
LW: Dining is what you want to make of it. We have a wide variety of festival food vendors downtown throughout the day, both commercial and nonprofit, and you can try several types of chili as part of the International Chili Society’s homestyle chili cookoff. For a restaurant experience check out Ribeyes Steakhouse, which sits squarely inside the festival grounds with a full bar and live music performances during most of the day.
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
LW: Mount Olive, population 4,500, is a relatively small place. We have a lovely, comfortable new Sleep Inn & Suites in town as our only and best hotel! We do not offer visitor packages that combine lodging and festival events yet (admission to our festival is free), but we are beginning to explore some options for future events.
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
LW: The North Carolina Pickle Festival enables the Mount Olive community to put its best foot forward for thousands of visitors. Outside of the biennial Wings Over Wayne Air Show at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the North Carolina Pickle Festival is the largest one-day outdoor event in Wayne County. Many local nonprofit organizations and churches use the festival to raise funds and generate awareness about what they do. Proceeds from the festival support the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce and the Waylin Area Foundation, which serves the community through the support of education, crime prevention, and promotion of agriculture. Our festival uses its hometown claim to fame as an excuse to throw a great big celebration on the last full weekend every April. We have a real sense of fun – it’s kind of hard to take yourselves too seriously when your most famous product, well, is the humble pickle – and that pervades the festival. Where else can you race the cucumber of your choice down a derby track, watch costumed mascots race each other for a pickle trophy, or take a ride on the “Pickle Train?”
For more information about the North Carolina Pickle Festival, please visit the event website.