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Let the celebration begin!

WINTON – “Three, two, one and release,” shouted Johnnie Farmer, Vice Chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

With that command, a crowd of nearly 100 people cheered during a balloon launch on the front lawn of the Hertford County Courthouse here yesterday (Monday) afternoon as citizens and county officials released 250 colorful orbs marking the official start of a year-long public celebration for its 22,600 residents in honor the county’s formation in 1759.

Sheriff deputies sounded their car sirens as the balloons floated towards the sky.

The Hertford County High School ROTC also performed a flag presentation.

“Without the citizens there would be no 250 years of Hertford County,” explained Farmer, who was filling in for Commission Chair Howard Hunter III.

Farmer urged the crowd to attend each of the 25 planned events in 2009.

“I think it’s nice to be a part of an event that is so historical,” said Hertford County resident Jene Pratt.

Two of Pratt’s granddaughters helped release the balloons.

“I’m glad my granddaughters were part of this because there’s no better way to learn history than to be a part of it.”

“From today until the end of next year will really mean a lot to us. It’s a chance for Hertford County to really shine,” explained Lynn Johnson, Mayor of Murfreesboro.

Mayor Johnson also felt this celebration is an opportunity to involve the youth.

“We need to focus on the kids and show them exactly what our county has to offer,” she said.

“I am very excited to be here on this day,” expressed Hertford County Commissioner Curtis Freeman. “I am a resident here in Hertford County, born and raised. This is my 11th year as commissioner, it means a lot to be here on this day.”

“Each balloon is marked with Hertford County’s seal,” Farmer said while looking up at the floating balloons. “Wherever they land, whoever finds them will know they came from us.

“It feels really good to watch the kick off and I am eager to see the upcoming events,” said Patricia Weaver, Hertford County’s Assistant County Manager.

Weaver is one of 14 county officials and citizens who are working together on the 250th Anniversary Planning Committee.

The planning committee meets once a month at the County Manager’s office located at 704 North King Street in Winton.

If you are interested in helping plan events for the county’s 250th celebration, contact Weaver at 252-358-7805.

The hour-long kick-off celebration also included remarks from the area’s state leaders.

“The Native American tribes that first settled here knew they were in a special place,” District Four North Carolina State Senator Ed Jones said. “They didn’t arrive here by mistake. They knew it was a rich place on the high side of the river.”

Jones read a proclamation from the NC Senate in honor of Hertford County’s 250th birthday.

“Those who first settled here on this rich ground never imagined what Hertford County could become,” Senator Jones closed. “We can stand here today and imagine what this place will look like 250 years from now.”

District 5 State House Representative Annie Mobley, who calls Hertford County home, said the day was one of thanksgiving.

“We have so many things to be thankful for here in Hertford County,” she noted. “For starters, we need to be thankful that the Lord turned what was a dreary, wet morning into a beautiful day filled with blue skies and warm sunshine. We also need to be thankful of those who have planned such a grand celebration.”

Representative Mobley remarked of how government starts at the local level.

“I solicit your prayers and your confidence in your local leaders as well as for our new president and our new governor.”

Mobley added that she was attempting to have the North Carolina General Assembly convene in a special session in Hertford County sometimes next year in honor of the county’s 250th anniversary.

As part of Monday’s kick-off, two Hertford County municipal mayors – Ervin Stephens of Como and Linda Blackburn of Ahoskie – presented resolutions on behalf of their town councils in honor of the county’s 250 years.

“We are here to salute our natural resources and our human resources,” Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said. “Our people, and their willingness to serve in leadership roles, are our strongest resource. We welcome all who want to help us celebrate our rich heritage.”

Also taking part in the ceremony were Town of Murfreesboro Administrator Cathy Davison, who sang the National Anthem, Rev. Dr. Claude Odom, who provided the invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance by the Hertford County 4-H Club.

Hertford County Commissioners DuPont Davis and William “Bill” Mitchell also added remarks.

(R-C News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant contributed to this story.)

Hertford County 250th Anniversary 2009 Calendar Of Events

January 1 – Ahoskie New Year’s Parade

January 6 – Town of Murfreesboro 222nd Birthday

February 6-7 – Chowan Discovery Group – Gallery Theater – (Ahoskie)

Month of March – School Involvement Month

April 24-25 – Relay for Life (Hertford/Gates)

May 3-9 – County Government Week

May 7 – General Assembly Day

May 25 – Memorial Day Celebration – No Man’s Land (Ahoskie)

Month of June – Hertford County Appreciation Month

July 4th – Ahoskie Fireworks

July 29 – August 4 – NC Watermelon Festival (Murfreesboro)

September 11-12 – Ahoskie Heritage Day

September 19 – Cofield Day

October 17 – Elks National Shrine Parade (Winton)

October 23-25 – Meherrin Indian Pow Wow

October 26-November 1 – Atlantic District Fair (Ahoskie)

November 7 – African American Festival – HCMS

November 11 – Veterans Day Parade (Ahoskie)

November 21 – Ahoskie Christmas Parade

December 5 – Murfreesboro Christmas Parade

December 12 – Winton Christmas Parade

Hertford County 250th Anniversary Gala (TBA)