Events in Little Washington create charming memories along the waterfront
The idyllic atmosphere of Washington, N.C., coupled with modern-day amenities will make any event memorable.Posted — Updated
With waterfront views and unique charm, the town of Little Washington is an enticing place to host an event.
Located in Beaufort County, about 30 minutes from Greenville and two hours from Raleigh, Washington is the kind of town that has a historically captivating feel. After all, the town is named after the nation's first president. The idyllic atmosphere, coupled with modern-day amenities will make any event memorable.
That's exactly what Erin Ruyle wants for people. Ruyle, who is the director of tourism and development for the City of Washington, said she's in the business of "helping people make memories."
When asked why Washington is a great place to host an event, Ruyle simply stated, "the waterfront, the people, the culture."
Ruyle explained that whether you want to host a conference, a festival or make it your wedding destination, Washington is a laid-back, hospitable town where you'll find locals willing to help with your plans.
One of the town's most popular events, the Summer Festival, has been bringing food, fireworks and fun to the area for almost 40 years — and often brings out the whole community to celebrate.
"This festival is truly a festival that offers something for everyone. It's located right on the water in Downtown Washington, so it's a great way to see what our county has to offer and enjoy different vendors throughout the weekend," said Catherine Glover, executive director of Washington Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. "Enjoying live music in Downtown Washington's Mac'Bear' Hodges Festival Park is always a hit. Fireworks over the Pamlico River are beautiful and worth coming out for — it really is a festival that has something for everyone."
The Summer Festival typically takes place in June. In addition to fireworks and free live music, guests can also expect local business vendors, local nonprofits raising money, amusement rides for children, and plenty of food.
All of these resources make Washington a great place for homegrown events — like Smoke on the Water, one of the Washington Noon Rotary's major annual fundraisers.
Started over 20 years ago by Washington's Pam Anderson, the event features a BBQ contest, chili cookoff and 5K run.
"The first year we ever did it, we had no idea what to expect, and we ran out of food by 11 o'clock. It was just ridiculous. We had no idea that many people would show up. It's grown so much, and last year we made $30,000 for area nonprofits," said Anderson. "The more that we make, the more we can give back, and that's what it's all about — it's giving back to the community."
The BBQ competition features two different categories: backyard competition for people who cook with gas, then the state finals for traditional cookers who use wood or charcoal. After the pig is judged, it's taken straight to the chopping tent, then made into sandwiches and tailgate packages. According to Anderson, the winner of the competition earns the largest first-place prize purse in the state.
But Smoke on the Water is about more than just BBQ.
"On Friday night, we have a little pig parade that kicks off the event, and we have showmanship judging for the pig cookers, as well as live music. The next morning we start judging, and we also have a car show, live music, amusement attractions, a train ride, a motorcycle ride to benefit the Humane Society, a pumpkin patch for the kids — the list goes on," said Anderson. "There's something going on from the time you get up until the festival ends at 5:00 p.m., and there's award-winning BBQ and chili to enjoy while you explore."
Smoke on the Water takes place right on the scenic Washington Waterfront, which is just one of several venues available in the town.
One of the best places to host an event in Washington is at the Historic Turnage Theatre.
Debra Torrence, who works with the Arts of the Pamlico, noted the history of the Turnage makes it a special place to host not only large events like weddings but also smaller events like musical performances and art camps for kids.
The Arts of the Pamlico's mission is "to present a wide range of educational, entertainment and cultural programs, and to encourage the same by advancing and supporting the efforts of local artists, arts organizations and arts businesses throughout the region."
The Arts of the Pamlico hosts live theater productions put on by students of East Carolina University, as well as local children in the Bubblegum Theater, writing and acting workshops, and art classes like pottery.
It's currently housing a costume collection by Jeffery Phipps in the Historic Turnage Theatre, where you will find a replica of an outfit worn by Vivien Leigh in "Gone with the Wind" and clothes from the personal collection of Mrs. Howell of "Gilligan's Island" fame.
Torrence said Washington is a great place to host events year-round, and "people [who host events in Washington] will feel at home in our small town with big culture."
With events like a can't-find-anywhere-else BBQ festival, it's safe to say Washington is succeeding. For a complete list of events in Washington, guests can browse visitwashingtonnc.com.
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