Saturday felt like a day at the beach in Tarboro, and not just because of the hot weather. Folks broke out their lawn chairs, shorts and flip-flops, and soaked up the sun at the 5th annual Beach Music and BBQ Festival on the campus of Edgecombe Community College.
“We’ve got a nice breeze, sunshine, the same conditions as if they were at the beach,” said Dr. Deborah Lamm, ECC president. “It’s great family fun entertainment. There’s something here for everybody. “
Three popular beach bands — The Band of Oz, The Embers, and the Carolina Breakers – headlined the festival.
“They’re three really great bands,” said Curtis Edmondson, a member of the ECC Foundation board of directors. “I like the sound and the beat of beach music and I love to shag. It’s good exercise, good therapy.”
“Boogie Shoes,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,” and “Knock on Wood” were some of the songs the bands played.
“I love beach music. It takes me back to my youth,” said John Watkins of Rocky Mount. His favorite song by The Embers is “Knock on Wood.”
“The first time I heard that, I was probably 8 or 9 years old at a pool party in Raleigh,” he said.
Wick and Kristi Baker of Tarboro attended the festival for the fifth year in a row.
“It’s just a great way to welcome summer,” said Wick Baker. “It’s really fun to see people out. We just caught up with some friends.”
The Bakers also enjoyed the food at the festival. Hawaiian ice, lemonade and cold beer quenched the thirst of the crowd, while roasted corn and barbecue satisfied their appetite. Dennis Smith of Tarboro serves up his pork barbecue at the festival every year.
“I slow cook a pig at 325 (degrees) up to eight hours and I chop it up and use my vinegar-based sauce,” Smith said. “Eastern North Carolina barbecue is the best in the world…You cannot beat it. I’ll fun it up against anybody.”
One of Kristi Baker’s favorite parts of Saturday’s festival was watching people dance.
Among the dancers at the beach festival were Shirley Weaver of Goldsboro and Larry Patterson of Lillington. This year was their first time at the festival, but Patterson said, “We’ll be back.”
“We shag for fun, we do competition and we teach shag,” Weaver said. “We go where the beach bands are playing…The music, the dance, the people – it’s a lifestyle.”
Weaver and Patterson judged a shag contest at Saturday’s festival that brought out large crowds late in the afternoon. Six couples danced to “It Started With a Kiss” by Hot Chocolate. Austin and Linda Westbrook of Newton Grove won first place in the competition, Kevin and Amy Combs of Tarboro took second and Mary Kay and Gene Cox of Four Oaks finished third.
The festival is one of two major fundraisers for the ECC Foundation, along with a golf tournament in the fall.
“We’re excited about this day and what it’s going to mean for our Foundation and student scholarships,” Lamm said.
Karen Landrus, executive director of the ECC Foundation, said the previous four beach festivals have raised about $30,000 for student scholarships.
“About 70 to 75 percent of our students need some kind of financial aid,” Landrus said. While some students receive federal financial aid, others “fall through the cracks,” and the Foundation is happy to provide scholarships to those students, Landrus said.
Landrus is starting to see a trend of “the same people who have really had a following for this beach music” coming to the festival year after year. She said she was happy with the turnout at Saturday’s event.