Festival season in Eastern North Carolina continued with Swansboro’s 65th annual Mullet Festival, which took place on the town’s waterfront, Oct 12. Thousands of patrons hit the streets to celebrate Swansboro’s fishing village roots. The event is one of the longest running in the entire state.
More than 100 vendors were present at the festival this year, selling everything from beach-themed decorations and license plate art to T-shirts and hats. With dozens of food vendors present, event goers got to treat themselves to not only the fried pickles and turkey legs of the standard fair or festival, but a variety of seafood options. One vendor was even selling the festival’s namesake fish, which has become harder to come by due to price increasess.
Oscar Brown, a vendor selling lumpia with his wife and daughter says he enjoys coming to this festival each year because of its long standing traditions.
"There are a ton of local festivals to check out, but the Mullet Festival is very dear to me,” said Brown. "Traditions are very important to my family. My grandfather and father were both fishermen. I love coming out and supporting the rich history of my hometown.”
The festival was started in 1954, when locals threw a mullet feast for the builders of the bridge across the White Oak River. They used mullet to feed the whole town. There were no vendors in the early days of the festival, but fisherman with stock piles of mullet filled the street for the community feast.
"It really is a good time for everyone,” said Mike Walsh, event volunteer and Swansboro resident for over 40 years. “The sense of community that comes from small town festivals really takes me back to another time. When I was a kid, we used to have block parties and the whole neighborhood would come out. With everything being so fast moving today, I feel like we all just stay too busy and miss out on a lot. It’s nice to just unplug and talk to our neighbors. The streets are shut down and everyone is just outside hanging out. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger.”
Festivities began with a parade and ended with a firework show Saturday. Patrons spent two days perusing wares, snacking on treats and listening to live music performances.
“I bring my kids every year,” said Molly Fisher, military spouse and event goer. “It is different than a lot of the other festivals around here. The kids just like to hear all the different types of music and we get to spend some quality time without having to hear any complaining from the teenagers, so it’s pretty great.”