LUMBERTON — The Southeastern Agricultural Center and Farmers Market has recently been given a new name that supporters hope will define the center as a multi-purpose facility — and reach its potential as a million-dollar money maker for the county.
Located near exit 13A on Interstate 95, the facility was recently renamed the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center and assigned a new logo that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer services says will reflect the center’s larger appeal as an events destination.
A new marketing director, Bobbie Parker, who is owner and manager of Gene Parker Farms LLC in Orrum, has taken on the job of filling the center’s calendar.
“I’m really the event coordinator and a marketing specialist,” she said. “My job is to make people aware what the facility is and that it’s open for business — there’s a lot of people who don’t even know that it’s here.”
Parker says that the center has a “prime” location at the intersection of I-95 and U.S. 74 and that similar facilities can only be found after a two-hour drive to Raleigh or Williamston or a four-hour drive to Fletcher.
“The location is amazing, and so far the equine events that have been coming there have been great and have made a huge financial impact in the community,” Parker said.
The center, under scrutiny from the state, must prove that it can raise enough revenue to cover at least 50 percent of its operating costs by February or face takeover from a government entity. Parker has been working closely with the North Carolina Horse Council to bring in equine events that will not only bring visitors to the county but also act as fund-raisers for the installation of 100 horse stalls, a project that could cost up to $650,000.
One such event is a three-day horse show named “Cowboy Up” that begins on Sept. 28, and will feature competitive barrel racing and roping. It is expected to bring in $1 million in revenue to the county.
“Our biggest challenge right now is finding funding for the stalls,” Parker said. “Once we get some major stalls in there, the facility could turn into nothing but a horse show facility and I think it has the potential to be booked every weekend.”