First Posted: 1/15/2009
FAIRMONT - With beautiful fall weather and an overflowing crowd, the Fairmont Farmers Festival was poised to be the best ever, organizers said.
But numerous fist fights and a shooting that left four people injured, brought an early end to the annual event Saturday.
Police are looking for two men in the shooting that occurred on the periphery of the festival in front of China Garden Restaurant on Walnut Street.
No one was seriously injured from the single gunshot blast, Police Chief Robert Hassell said.
But it effectively killed the festival.
Three victims refused medical treatment. A fourth man was taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center, but his condition was unavailable.
Fairmont officials said it was unfortunate that ”a few bad apples“ forced the day-long festival to shut down by mid-afternoon.
The festival got off to a good start with a record 15,000 people jamming Main Street to watch the 110-unit parade. But as the day progressed, fights began to flair up. Many of the younger festival goers could be seen running toward the incidents, followed by lawmen a few seconds later.
”We did close it early due to the fights … they were popping up at a rapid pace,“ Hassell said. ”There's always a few that ruin it for everybody.“
Hassell said a 17-year-old was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. In a separate incident, a young woman was charged with disorderly conduct for fighting.
Dianne Hunt, who came with her 8-year-old granddaughter, Samantha, said they were enjoying the festival until the violence broke out.
”This is a family event, then you got some idiots who come out here trying to start trouble,“ Hunt said.
She had planned to stay until dark, but headed toward her truck when she heard there had been a shooting.
”A bullet don't have no name on it,“ she said.
Jenny Larson, festival chairman, insists that there was a lot that went right with the event. Larson said festival goers still got to see the parade, the musical acts and the car and tractors shows.
The traditional barn dance that concludes the festival at the Hi-Dollar Warehouse went on as planned.
”The weather was beautiful and we had a really great turnout,“ Larson said. ”Hopefully, the incident won't spoil future events.“
Mary Locklear, of Lumberton said the Fairmont festival is still one of the best events of its kind in the county. She and her family enjoyed ribs and funnel cakes and browsed through rows of vendors selling candles, DVDs and hand-made jewelry.
”It was still worth coming out for, they have something for everybody and anybody,“ Locklear said.
One of the best attended events was the festival's stereo sound off competition.
Ronald Broddie of Laurinburg, took home the top award by having the highest volume at 153.9 decibels. The average car stereo at maximum level is about 120 decibels.
”I plan on putting in three more amps,“ Broddie said. ”It's about the quality of sound to me.“
Cedric Buie, who makes it point to check out the sound show each year, brought his wife, Summer, and six-month-old daughter, Haliey.
”I always come to the sound off to see the different styles and different rims,“ Buie said before the trouble started.
”It's a great family outing too. It (has) gotten better and better. There didn't used to be this many people.“