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Flounder Festival 2021
From Croaker to Flounder
July 7, 2021

hen the Flounder Festival was announced, people weren’t quite sure what to expect. There had been anticipation for the annual Croaker Festival – a 30 year Fourth of July weekend tradition.

The Color Guard from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

However a notice appeared on the Croaker Festival site (now inactive) stating “North Carolina’s current restrictions on mass gatherings make holding the festival economically unviable”, there were others in town who believed that something could and should be done to – at the very least – mark the occasion.

Marsha Paplham owner of Marsha’s Cottage and Oriental Tourism Board chair, along with Pamlico County Commissioner Candy Bohmert, tackled the issue beginning with the fireworks. A public request was made for donations for the fireworks (a cost of roughly $10,000).

Fireworks from Oriental Bridge.

Professional fireworks teams weren’t easy to come by. Most were booked months in advance for Saturday evening of the July 4 weekend. Traditionally, a giant fireworks display capped off Saturday’s events. Saturday was booked everywhere. However there was team available for the Friday before the holiday.

Waiting on the parade to get to the corner of Broad and Hodges Streets, two Pamlico County Sheriff’s deputies keep traffic from turning into the event.

Paplham and Bohmert agreed; fireworks are fireworks no matter the day, and after a year of being shut down and (in many cases, shut-in) they would be an excellent way for residents to celebrate. Even if it had to be from their own driveways.

The Cooligans and the Sudan Drifters are units within the Sudan Shriners organization, and are crowd favorites.

But as more people were vaccinated and cases dropped, more restrictions were lifted. Most importantly, restrictions on the mass gathering limits were lifted. And a real parade (in lieu of a distanced, drive-by parade) was now in the works.

Little Miss Flounder winner Cataleya Veliz and her mother.

But with fireworks and a parade, the event needed a name. It could not be called the Croaker Festival – that is an owned name. And so, with everyone flailing about to assemble a full scale event with little money on hand and on only two months’ notice, the event came to be called The Flounder Festival. It not only complemented the fishing heritage of the Croaker Festival, but it also acknowledged the way this year’s event began.

By the time the Independence Day weekend rolled around, The Flounder Festival had not only gained fireworks and a parade, but the 2d Marine Division Band from Camp Lejeune, the Color Guard from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the colonial Fife & Drum Corps from New Bern, a Little Miss Flounder pageant, a free midday showing of The Little Mermaid, live music at several village venues, and the participation of numerous profit and non profit vendors.

Amber & Macy Watson, with grandmother Barbara Edwards take in the fireworks over Oriental Harbor Marina.

Despite its uncertain beginnings, Marsha Paplham said the Flounder Festival was a success.

Parade Master Fay Bond relaxes in the shade. The 97 year old wears her Senior Olympic medals, the last won in 2019.
Sometimes, retirement means wearing a Hawaiian shirt while participating in a rolling Kazoo chorus.
Oriental United Methodist Church had a BBQ Chicken dinner (cooked by Jim Kellenberger) with green beans, potatoes, slaw, and a dinner roll – all for $10. With only 120 plates, the food went fast.
Dad’s pockets can hold a lot of parade candy.
The 2d Marine Division Band.
The 2d Marine Division Band marching in the parade. At top, the band master indicates a turn onto Hodges St.
Tony Santore stepped up as this year’s Parade Master.
The many kids at the Flounder Festival.
Even Snowie got in on the firework action.
The Chinese Dragon shows up for the Flounder Festival.
The scene on Hodges St. pre-parade.
The Tiki Bar float featured a mermaid and her friends.
Every parade should have a majorette with a flaming baton.
Fireworks as seen through the masts of Oriental Yacht Club.
Semi-patient Little Miss Flounder contestants await the judges’ decision.
 Contestant Haidyn Raines
Serenity Henries (second runner-up), Haidyn Raines, and Addisyn Henderson.
Alaina Garcia, Little Miss Photogenic, Tinsley Ormond, 3rd Runner Up, and Ava Foughty, 2nd Runner Up.
Cataleya Veliz, winner of the Little Miss Flounder title.
A John Deere tractor letting everyone know about Oriental’s Ham Radio club.
Little Miss Photogenic, Alaina Garcia, rides in the lead car for the Little Miss Flounder contestants.
Woodwinds and brass in the grass await the returning Marines.
The 2d Marine Division Band of Camp Lejeune, conducted by Gunnery Sergeant Anna Henrickson.
Members of Station 19 Fire Department drive the original 1950s fire engine for Oriental.
Petey lets everyone know Oriental Village Veterinary has arrived. Buddy just wants to get to know you a little better.
Dr. Jim Ross heads up the Pamlico Community College Float.
The Pamlico Chorale performed at The Old Theater under the direction of Ann Kellogg
A Croaker hat is spotted in the crowd.
Agatha M. at the end of a very long festival day.

Photos by Ben Casey & Allison DeWeese.

Posted Wednesday July 7, 2021 by Allison DeWeese

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