WALNUT COVE, N.C. — In Fowler Park yesterday, you could unwind in a patch of shade and hear some of the same sounds that must have echoed through Walnut Cove in 1889 — the ting of blacksmith tools, the ringing of fiddles and banjos, the bleating of a sheep.
The town celebrated its 125 anniversary with a festival rich in nostalgia, with demonstrations of old-time crafts, string music and square dancing and historical tours.
But there were modern touches as well — a bounce house, crock pots teeming with chopped pork and dozens of Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders thundering down Main Street.
Festival-goers sauntered on a sun-drenched afternoon, with a breeze just slight enough to create ripples in the American flags lining the street. At one point, John Mellencamp’s song, “Small Town,” an ode to rural communities, blasted from a loud speaker.
“Everybody is so excited about the turnout,” said Mayor Lynn Lewis. “This is something we can build on and have year after year.”
Festival-organizers marked 1889, the town’s incorporation date, as the year to mark the anniversary. But the town’s roots date to the mid-1700s when it was known as Town Fork, according to Kyle Berrier, whose book “Around Walnut Cove and Danbury,” was just released by Arcadia Publishing.
Berrier, 19, is a rising senior at Campbell University, and is a history buff. He is a direct descendent of Benjamin Young, among the first settlers in Stokes County.
Town Fork settlers formed a bond with Moravians in Bethania and Bethabara. Eventually, William Lash, a Moravian settler at Bethania, bought land along the Town Fork Creek, which later developed into a large plantation named Walnut Cove, according to the town’s website.
It became a railroad hub, which fueled the area’s growth.
One of the most interesting events at the festival was the showing of a movie, “Walnut Cove: A Journey Back in Time.” The movie, shown at Walnut Cove Public Library, is footage of Walnut Cove that was shot in 1940. About a month ago, some older residents got together at the library to provide the narration to the footage.
The film gives a portrait of small-town America before World War II, when men sported bib overalls and hats and women wore aprons over their dresses, with footage of a bustling downtown with sandwich shops, service stations, beauty parlors and dress stores, including Hope’s, a clothing store, with the motto, “Fashion for the Fairer Sex.”