Hometown pride alive and well as Norlina celebrates 100
The vigor and enthusiasm of the crowds at the Norlina Centennial Celebration spoke of youth, not age.
Although the town has reached the age of 100 years, the spirit of participants at the event on Saturday appeared poised for the future even as they looked back at the town’s venerable history.
A parade along U.S. 1 and Hyco Street brought grand marshal Stephanie Wheeler, Mayor Dwight Pearce and other dignitaries to the Norlina Museum for an opening ceremony.
Pearce welcomed the crowd. County manager Linda Worth and commissioner Ruby Downey added their welcoming remarks.
Dolores Clark sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” asking the crowd to join her on the second selection.
Pearce introduced Wheeler, who said, “This is the most lively group I’ve ever seen in downtown Norlina.”
Speaking from a wheelchair, the two-time Paralympics gold medalist, said, “I was fortunate to be raised by this hometown. If not for you guys, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done.”
Wheeler is head coach for the women’s wheelchair basketball team at the University of Illinois.
Pearce thanked Juel Duke for coordinating the event.
“She put all this together,” he said.
Pearce praised Sonny Peoples.
“He was in charge of the parade, and it was wonderful.”
Pearce introduced several resident whose lifelines matched or nearly matched that of the town. He identified Lucille Newman as the town’s oldest resident at the age of 101. She said too much fuss was made over her and she didn’t want to be in the paper. Suffice it to say, her age parallels that of Norlina.
The crowd then scattered to points of interest — the many exhibits, the Norlina Museum and the fire department’s auto show.
Participants ate barbecue prepared as part of the Norlina Volunteer Fire Department’s barbecue cook-off, Brunswick stew prepared by Norlina Baptist Church and miscellaneous goodies available from the 50-plus vendors.
Sears Bugg gave a history of railroads in Norlina. Speaking without notes, he said it began in 1837 when the Raleigh & Gaston Line began construction to connect the two cities. Bugg outlined the growth of railroading into the 20th century and the decline that began after World War II.
He ended on a positive note.
“Norlina has a future with high speed rail,” Bugg said. “It may come right through here.”
In the art show sponsored by Glen Raven, Wanda Satterwhite’s entry, “Street Scene,” was judged to be Best in Show. Other winners included: first prize, Carolyn Hargrove; second prize, Dukie Barnes; and third prize, Wilson Vaughan.
Solid Sound Productions furnished music and led some of the more energetic participants in line dancing.
Vance County’s Kaine Riggan provided country and western music during the afternoon.
Visitors came from distant parts of Warren County and beyond. Leonard Burchette, from the Burchette community in the northwest corner of the county, said, “I’m looking over the cars. I might get something to eat later.”
Liza Adcock of Macon commented on the pretty art work and good foods. She couldn’t tarry, however. “My children are running around like crazy,” she said.
Michael Newman, grandson of Lucille Newman, lives in Sterling, Va., but said he visited Norlina quite often. He recalled putting pennies and nickels on the railroad track and picking up the flattened metal after a train passed.
Dr. Lyman Henderson, who has a dental practice in Warrenton with his daughter Kara, was there because, he said, “I love trains.”
Vilma Gatling said her father worked for the Seaboard railroad company for 52 years. She grew up in Warren County and was a teacher for 37 years.
Lou Traylor, on the other hand, described herself as “an import.” She’s lived in the county only 60 years.
Wayne Robison of Vance County came dressed, appropriately enough, as a train conductor.
The barbecue cookoff was won by John Carter and Junior Tucker under the title of “Fat Boy BBQ.” Carter works at Maria Parham Medical Center, while Tucker is a truck driver.
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