The annual Harvest Festival has taken on a new role in Wendell this year, pledging to give money to local churches that operate food pantries during the holidays.
It shouldn’t be a hard job. With a week to go before the festival is held, over $1,500 has already been raised through one of the festival’s new activities, the Little Miss and Mr. Wendell pageant, festival organizer and Chamber of Commerce member Tracie Hicks said last week.
The pageant has 12 contestants who will be judged on their ability to raise money for local food pantries– and that’s it.
“It’s not a popularity contest, it’s not a beauty contest, it’s just about who’s getting out there and asking for funds for local food banks,” Hicks said. “The pageant ... has been a real big thing this year (and) I think it will probably become bigger because of the role it plays in the community.”
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In addition to the pageant, Hicks and a committee of chamber members, local business owners and regular citizens focused on introducing new activities that could be used as a way to bring in supplies or money for organizations that serve Wendell.
“Wendell’s a small town and it’s growing … (we) just (want) to maintain that small town feel, it’s not about serving up cotton candy and listening to music, there’s more to it than just being a festival,” Hicks said.
The committee did keep some of the more traditional aspects of the festival, including a pumpkin derby and a beer garden, that will now be set up in the town sqaure next to the stage.
Otherwise, the Harvest Festival committee tried to make sure every family member would have something to do that could ultimately benefit the town.
Wendell’s Parks and Recreation department is holding a cornhole tournament that allow teams (including family teams) to sign up for a small fee. That money will be part of the money given to community organizations.
And this year’s festival has also found ways to engage businesses and give them a little reward.
The Harvest Festival committee asked downtown Wendell businesses to decorate their storefronts not only to attract customers for holiday shopping, but the winning business will receive $100 in cash as well as lunch at Boulevard Pizza.
“I’m excited about the whole thing, the vibe, the buzz that’s going around ... everyone’s really excited,” Hicks said.