One of the longer-running events in the state adds another year to its run this weekend with the annual Tarboro gathering, Happening on the Common.
The event, which has been going on for more than 47 years, is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Tarboro Town Common and will feature local vendors, a series of musicians, art shows and plenty of events for children.
“It is the center of the community,” said Joyce Turner, executive director of the Edgecombe County Cultural Arts Council. “You have the huge historic town common. It is the time of year when it is spring and everything is alive and it is a time where artists and performers have a space that is a common area for the entire community and visitors to Tarboro can come and see what is going on in Eastern North Carolina because we also showcase local and regional artists.”
Because the event is free, council Assistant Director Carol Banks said there is not a reliable way to count how many people show up for the event, but the number is probably close to 3,000.
“On a beautiful day, it brings them out by the busload,” Banks said.
Another reason the event is as successful as it is is the name recognition it carries.
“Everyone knows about the Happening,” Banks said. “It is always the third Saturday in May. They all look forward to it, and they always know it is going to go on. It is a very famous festival, actually.”
About 57 vendors are scheduled to be at the event, but Banks said she expects that number will grow to more than 60 by Saturday.
“There are all sorts of vendors,” she said. “There is needlework. There is knitting. One of the bigger ones is Art Bradley with the county extension program. They are celebrating their 100th year, so they are going to make a big show.”
The event is huge for the town because of its economic impact.
“It certainly helps the downtown merchants because people always like to go shopping while they are downtown,” Banks said. “A lot of people have eaten down there, but if you are an out-of-town visitor, you obviously want to see downtown.”
The positive benefits go both ways, Banks said, because there would not be an event without the vendors, shop owners and nonprofit organizations.
“I accept nonprofits because without nonprofits, it would be a small event,” she said. “Some of the nonprofits sell things, but a lot of them just give information.”
The common is up the street from downtown Main Street, Banks said, which is visually distinct.
“There are not many Main Streets like ours,” she said.
The music will start with a 10:15-11 a.m. performance by Tar River Community Band. Other performers include jazz singer CoCo Rozier at 1 p.m.; the Tar River Boys and Green Grass Cloggers, 1:30 p.m.; Eyes of Emiline and Conoho Creek, 3 p.m. and Steel Standing Band, 4 p.m.
There will be a children’s art activities at the council’s tent, which Banks said will be pretty hard to miss due to its size.
“This year we are going to have an art wall, where patrons can come and paint a mural or add their artist expertise,” Turner said. “We are hoping our white wall will be very colorful by the end of the day.”
The event would not be possible without the town, which will set up all of the tables and equipment.
“Because it is sponsored by the town, they allow us to use the town common and they supply us with the manpower,” Banks said. “Without the town of Tarboro, we could not have this. It has always been sponsored by the town. They set the stage up, they mark the spaces for us and all of the trash cans and the bleachers and all that.”
The town is only happy to comply, public works Director Troy Lewis said.
“It is a good thing to showcase the town and bring people in,” Lewis said. “It shows off our common, which we are really proud of.”
For details, call 823-4159.