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Scuppernong River Festival

Caden Halburg

Although it was a rainy weekend morning, a small town like Columbia, North Carolina would

not let anything get in the way of the annual Scupernong River Festival. Everywhere I looked,

the streets were busy with people crowding around food trucks, exploring the farmer’s

market set up along the street or simply waiting for the welcoming parade to kick things off.

As the start of the parade drew closer, I could feel the excitement growing all around me.

 

Even before I had arrived in Columbia to attend the Scuppernong River Festival, the

information I had gathered about this event had made me extremely interested in

experiencing it for myself. I had learned from the County Manager for Tyrrell County, David

Clegg, that this event had been occurring for nearly 40 years. Clegg told me that it had been

created because Tyrrell County had been interested in holding a fair, but due to the small

population size, the County was forced to hold a River Festival instead.

 

By the time the first car drove down the road to begin the parade, downtown Columbia was as

busy as an ant’s nest. The street was so packed with people that I was unsure if the parade

would be able to move down the street! As the parade progressed, the vehicles grew stranger

and stranger. Firetrucks and police cars blared their sirens as they passed, two people rode

by on horses, a man on a tractor drove by, and a convertible drove by with Miss North Carolina

sitting out of it!

 

As the parade came to a close, I turned my attention to the farmer’s market. The tents ranged from families selling homemade knitted products to environmental programs interested in teaching the public about environmental problems related to Columbia. 

 

At the end of the farmer’s market, a boardwalk caught my eye. Even though the rain had not stopped, I walked up to the boardwalk and started strolling along it, passing fishermen and other tourists in the process. The splashes as the rain hit the water were mesmerizing to me, and I stood in awe for what felt like hours. Finally, I shook myself awake and turned back around to the festival.

 

As I walked back to the downtown area of Columbia, the rain had picked up and the lines at the food trucks were even longer. Before I had the chance to get in one of the lines, I saw the man I had spoken with many weeks earlier, County Manager David Clegg! He was not alone, however. In fact, with him were Miss North Carolina, Taylor Loyd, and the North Carolina Rhododendron Queen, Karlee Sanderford, and Clegg quickly introduced me to each of them. 

 

 

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These women were here to speak to the crowd, and once they had, Miss North Carolina would put on a musical performance. Unfortunately, as Miss NC prepared to sing her first song, the sound crew was having trouble getting the speakers to work. That did not stop her, though. Even when a song that she was not expecting to start playing came on, she laughed it off and got right back into rhythm seconds later. 

 

Overall, the Scuppernong River Festival was a great experience. Maybe, for some people, the rain messed things up, but the way I see things is that the events were simply changed a bit. For example, had it not been raining, there would have been helicopter rides!

Introducing… the Overlooked Columbia

Caden Halberg

Although there are many cities and towns in the United States with the name Columbia, the town in North Carolina with the same name is a town that, in many peoples’ eyes, deserves more recognition. One of these people is David Clegg, the County Manager for Tyrrell County, which is the County that Columbia, North Carolina is located in. 

 

I had the opportunity to speak with Clegg in late September 2023 to learn more about what makes Columbia such a unique place. 

 

We began by discussing what could help draw visitors to Columbia. According to Clegg, Tyrrell County has the smallest population of all the counties in North Carolina. This means that the state owns most of the land, and as a result, this land and the ecosystems on it are extremely protected from the public. Specifically, Columbia is known for its wetland ecosystems. These wetlands even allow for the survival of rare animal and plant species such as the black bear, swan, Red Wolf, and pitcher plant!

 

Columbia is also known for its waterways. The two waterways that we discussed, the Scuppernong River and the Albemarle Sound, play important roles in the community around Columbia. According to Clegg, the Albemarle Sound is known for its blue crab population while the Scuppernong River Festival is popular for fishing, hunting, and kayaking.

 

Even though there are many incredible things about Columbia, Clegg does point out that there are a few negative things about Columbia, one of which is the lack of food options available for visitors. Due to the size of Columbia, Clegg says “It is true that amenities are an issue. With the exception of a few Hispanic restaurants and rib restaurants, fine dining is a problem.” 

 

Regardless of the struggles that some may connect with Columbia, Clegg believes that problems such as this are not the complete identity of this town. “Columbia has been and will continue to be a beautiful place. Anyone who likes the outdoors or appreciates unique wildlife should visit Columbia.”

A Boat Ride on the Scuppernong River

Caden Halberg

At the edge of downtown Columbia, North Carolina is a boardwalk that follows along the Scuppernong River. Eventually, the boardwalk leads up to a dock. Following a tour guide, my mom and I were lost in a trance from the beauty and uniqueness of this town. With a historic downtown that was mere steps from a boardwalk, I had never seen a place like this before, and although I felt like I had won the lottery, my day had only just begun —I was about to take a boat ride on the Scuppernong River.

 

As we waited for the boat to arrive, we listened as our guide gave us an overview of the role that the waterways such as the Scuppernong River play in Columbia. 

 

The Scuppernong River has been an important part of Columbia’s history, and as a way to celebrate it, Columbia has an annual festival in honor of the river. Not only that but the Scuppernong River and another body of water, the Albemarle Sound, are both popular places for fishermen to catch Blue crabs. She finished her explanation by keeping with the topic of wildlife by describing a unique wetland located in Columbia called the Pocosin Wetland, which preserves rare wildlife such as the Tundra swan, the North American river otter, the Red Wolf, and the bobcat.

 

If I had been unaware of all of this by the time I had climbed aboard the boat, there would have been no doubt that I would have guessed that this river was not there simply for its beauty. As we left the dock and moved further into the river, the wind picked up and water flew past my face. Even with the occasional splash of water and my hair flapping in my face, I sat back in relaxation. 

 

Everywhere I looked, there were trees on the horizon and no houses or neighborhoods. The descriptions from our tour guide may have been playing with my mind because I kept expecting to look up and see a swan flying above the trees or an otter swimming up to the boat. 

 

The further we moved across the river, I began to become more intrigued by how far we would go and when we would stop. As far as I could tell, we were the only boat on the water, so we had the entire river to explore if the captain felt the need to do so. I was not concerned about this potential hour-long journey; rather, I was interested and excited to see what our captain would do next.

 

After fifteen minutes of exploring the river, the captain of our boat turned the boat around and began heading back to shore. I knew that our boat ride would have to come to an end eventually, but I still felt slightly disappointed as our journey came to an end. With the beautiful scenery and calm, quiet atmosphere this boat ride had given me, I reluctantly said goodbye to the Scuppernong River.

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