Farming celebration reaps crowds

First Posted: 9/12/2009

DOBSON There was only one location in Surry County Saturday afternoon where people could get lost in a corn maze, pet farm animals and dunk Sheriff Graham Atkinson, and that place was Fisher River Park.
Those attractions, and much more, were part of the fourth-annual Celebrating Agriculture event held at the park just outside Dobson.
People came from all ends of the county, and beyond, to get a first-hand look at various facets of farming during the educational and fun gathering scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m.
Included were displays of tractors and other machinery, hayrides and a tractor train, exhibits and demonstrations by various organizations, a hay-throwing contest and a petting zoo with cows, goats, chickens and even llamas.
As if that were not enough, there was live music, bounce houses for the kids and special events including a watermelon crawl, in which assistant principals of county high schools were faced with negotiating a melon mine field while blindfolded. Meanwhile, the Surry sheriff and Dobson Mayor Ricky Draughn volunteered to sit in a dunking booth to the delight of onlookers.
But a corn maze that beckoned ominously on a nearby slope a new attraction for this years agricultural celebration seemed to command the most attention Saturday.
We really came for the corn maze, said Hannah Davis, a Pilot Mountain teen there with other family members. However, she and her sister Holly said they were able to negotiate its tricky layout in about five minutes.
Noah Brown, 8, of Mount Airy, wasnt as lucky. The student at B.H. Tharrington Primary School said it took him about 30 minutes to emerge after entering the mass of tall green stalks. I finally found my way out, he said.
Penny Martin of Mount Airy, who was attending the event for the first time, echoed the sentiments of others in describing what they enjoyed most. We liked the maze, Martin said as she exited the park with two other people.
Hannah Davis also said she enjoyed seeing the sheriff get wet. Although she didnt cause Atkinson to get dunked, her brother Austin did, she said.

Unique Foods
Meanwhile, Holly Davis said she enjoyed the food offered at the park, which included some special offerings one doesnt usually see, according to Bryan Cave, director of the Surry County branch of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. That agency sponsored the Celebrating Agriculture gathering along with the Surry County Parks and Recreation Department.
Cave mentioned that the Surry Cattlemens Association was selling hamburgers made from beef raised in the county.
Meanwhile, the Small Grain Growers Association along with demonstrating how wheat is ground made cookies from the grain that then were served free to the public.
Other farming organizations, such as the Surry County Beekeepers Association, had a presence at the festival as well, along with numerous agri-businesses and clubs such as 4-H. Local farmers brought in equipment for the event and otherwise volunteered their services.
In citing the various entities that either participated in or supported it financially, Cave agreed that a whos who of local agriculture was involved. The farming community as a whole has been very supportive of this, said Cave, who added that the focus was on allowing families to have a good time while also being exposed to the various facets of agriculture.
We feel like the way the economy is, its nice to have a family event thats free.
Along with educating people about whats involved with county farming operations, the extension director said Saturdays gathering was a way to highlight agricultures importance to the local economy.
He pointed out that Surry farming interests achieved $192 million in gross sales during 2008, and are responsible for about one-fourth of the total earnings in the county. Also, 20 percent of Surrys labor force is involved in agriculture, Cave said.
So its huge, the extension director said.
Its important to keep agriculture strong.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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