Behind the scenes as the community prepares for the 2023 NC Strawberry Festival

“We’ve been here, every step of the way since 1962,″ said Lester Frink, the station GM of the oldest Black-owned radio station east of the Mississippi River.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 11:34 AM EDT|Updated: May. 2, 2023 at 11:41 AM EDT
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CHADBOURN, N.C. (WECT) - The NC Strawberry Festival is still days away, but you can’t escape the buzz in Chadbourn.

There are residents here who firmly believe you can’t escape that buzz regardless of when you come to town. If they’re not talking about fond memories, or the anticipation of this year’s event, people are already planning ahead for next year.

“I’ve been involved with the Strawberry Festival Committee since 1975, so I’m showing my age” says Gayle Williamson, a VP with this year’s festival. “I want to see it grow, I want to see it prosper just like my parents did.”

Look closely around town, and you’ll see the signs that are already planted, gearing up for this week. Everywhere you look you’ll see subtle pops of red.

“The history behind this festival is just incredible” said Mike Barnes, who’s helping with the entertainment. “Back in the day, artists like James Brown and Otis Redding would pull off the old highway 74 and pop in the local radio station.”

WVOE is the oldest black owned radio station, east of the Mississippi River. Its anniversary celebration is always around the same time as the NC Strawberry Festival.

“We’ve been here, every step of the way since 1962,″ said Lester Frink, the station’s GM. “We represent Chadbourn. We try to be a beacon within our community to try to get the information out.”

Bobbie Nance has been a part of this festival since she was 17 years old. She’s not 17 anymore, but her enthusiasm over the festival still has her gushing like a teenager.

“There are going to be so many people here, you’re not going to recognize the place,” said Nance. “It’s in our blood. We like it; we love it. It’s just part of our life, and we love it.”

The NC Strawberry Festival in Chadbourn runs from May 2 to 6.

WECT is taking Highway 6 to Chadbourn for the 2023 NC Strawberry Festival; you can see more stories about the festival and its history here.