An idea in need of support
John Fritz has an idea and I like it!
Fritz, who co-owns the Jernigan House Bed and Breakfast located a block away from the News-Herald office on Catherine Creek Road as well as a noted historian, wants to breathe new life into Ahoskie Heritage Day.
That annual celebration, which traces its roots to 2004, ended at the close of its 2017 run….a dismal affair that attracted the smallest – and least enthusiast – crowd in its history.
The event’s biggest sponsor – the Town of Ahoskie – was experiencing tough times financially. In an effort to save money, the town cut Heritage Day in-half last year – from two days to one. Now it’s down to zero days….wiped clean from the 2018 events calendar.
However, Fritz sees hope in the very near future.
In an article we published one week ago, Fritz – addressing the Ahoskie Town Council at its meeting earlier this month – recalled the glory days of Heritage Day, founded in 2004 and was held along Main Street, which was only open to pedestrian traffic that day.
“It (stretched) from the front of City Hall down to where the old Ford dealership was located,” Fritz said. “It was a great day, a one day event.”
A year later, the venue was moved to the Ahoskie Amphitheatre at what is now Ahoskie Creek Park. Rides and fireworks were added, and instead of smaller, more intimate, booths, the food vendors came with trucks.
“It was never meant to have rides,” Fritz acknowledged in last week’s front page story. “It was never meant to be ‘carnival-like’. What it was intended to do was focus on downtown, to be focused on the business community and, more importantly, was intended to always be on Main Street.”
Fritz is correct with his recollection of the event’s purpose at its founding. I searched the News-Herald’s archives and found a story, published in late August of 2004, which served as the official announcement of the first-ever Heritage Day, held Oct. 9 of that year.
“The event will be set aside for all citizens and visitors to help Ahoskie celebrate its long and distinguished heritage,” the story reported.
The inaugural Heritage Day featured a 5K run, a Health Fair/Exhibit, an Antique Auto Show at No Man’s Land Park, and a Vaudeville Show at the Gallery Theatre.
Special activities for children included a pie eating contest, a pumpkin decorating contest, bicycle decoration and parade, horseback riding, and sack/relay races. There was even a pet contest.
Music lovers enjoyed a “Battle of the Bands.”
Downtown business owners worked in unison to plan a day filled with shopping, entertainment and fun for all ages. Space was made available for citizens/non-profit groups to conduct yard sales.
The Ahoskie Rotary Club kicked-off the day with a pancake and sausage breakfast followed by the Ahoskie Kiwanis Club offering chicken pastry.
Eventually, an Art Show and Sale, held at the Parish Hall of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, joined the list of events offered at Heritage Day. Sadly, that great event ended as Heritage Day took a big shift away from its traditional roots.
“It got too big,” Fritz declared of Heritage Day. “It got away from the intent of being called Ahoskie Heritage Days.”
Fritz said he’s making himself available to work with the town, the local Chamber of Commerce and other interested individuals/groups to bring back Heritage Day in its original form.
“Heritage Days was created to be a business supported and business focused event. It was intended to provide an opportunity for the Ahoskie community to put its best foot forward around its cultural, economic, and business community. In 2019 let’s put this event back where it belongs – in downtown Ahoskie. Being a business owner in this town I think we can get this going,” Fritz concluded his presentation at the Council meeting.
John…..count me in, as well as this newspaper, to join you in breathing new life into a worthwhile event. And I agree….let’s bring it back to where it belongs – downtown!
Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at email@example.com or 252-332-7207.