LUMBERTON – “It’s the last night of the fair” was the popular refrain from vendors, performers and ride workers Thursday night as Hurricane Matthew forced a premature end to the annual festivities.
The official announcement came via the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair’s Facebook page, stating that “due to impending hurricane” and citing safety concerns fair organizers closed down for 2016 at 11 p.m. Thursday.
The impact of the storm was being felt already on Thursday evening. Dreary weather and the looming storm kept attendance numbers lower than previous evenings and several vendors’ booths were vacant. However, the wet threat of Matthew didn’t dampen the spirits of those who ventured out, especially those who lost their minds, or watched others losing theirs.
They came to the fair, got on stage, got sleepy, and woke up about an hour later.
They woke up with no knowledge that they’d been twerking, hopping as a bullfrog, admitting secrets, or witnessing their parents wearing wildly inappropriate clothing.
They had no knowledge because it had all been in their heads — hypnotic suggestions from veteran magician and comedy hypnotist Alan “The Sandman” Sands.
Sands has been performing at the Robeson County Agricultural Fair for 15 years and has been a comedy hypnotist for 29 years. The son of a magician, performing in his blood.
The show pulls willing participants on stage, many keen to feel what it is like to be hypnotized. After they are put under the psychological spell, Sands’ subjects do and feel everything he says, much to the amusement of the audience.
Trevor Cox, 18, was very keen to get on stage for the 9 p.m. show Thursday.
Afterwards, he remembered his eyes rolling back in his head as Sands put him under, but nothing from then on. Strange for the young man who woke up wearing a purple tutu and sporting toenails painted orange.
“Luckily (orange) is my favorite color,” Cox said.
Amanda Cameron has no memory either. Cameron left the stage with a bra full of what she was told were $100 bills she had to hide. In reality, they were tissues.
“I nearly peed my pants,” said Kathleen Wills, who watched from the audience as a friend thinking she was Kermit the Frog ran through the crowd looking for her Miss Piggy.
Gloria Cox of Lumberton was eager to come back and see the show Thursday evening. She’d been a part of it the night before and reveled in a little schadenfreude, as she still had no knowledge of what she’d been subjected to on stage.
“There’s pictures of me on Facebook, but I don’t know what I was doing,” she said. “It’s too funny watching other people being tricked the same way.”
Those hypnotized were put into a deep relaxed state by Sands at the start of the show and brought out of it at the end. All who performed were sent home to “have the best, most relaxing, refreshing night of sleep, ever.”
It’s the second straight year the fair has lost significant days to the weather.
It was to extend through Saturday.
“The weather just isn’t cooperating with us this year, it’s sad,” said Coble Wilson, president emeritus of the fair board.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or on Twitter @MikeGellatly