Most people are familiar with the state of North Carolina because of its beautiful beaches, the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, and its prestigious universities. However, the true charm and heritage of the state lie in its rural counties, where the rich history of farming has shaped the communities for generations. The town of Dunn in Harnett County is a shining example of this agricultural legacy.
Out of the community’s devotion to its rich history, the North Carolina Cotton Festival was born. The Dunn Area Tourism Authority has hosted this festival for 23 years, transforming it over time into a destination event for many people throughout the region.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Cristy Bullock, Executive Director of the Dunn Area Tourism Authority, to learn all about this amazing festival.
The Storied History of Dunn, NC
Nestled in the easternmost part of Harnett County, the town of Dunn (originally known as Lucknow) holds a special place in the hearts of its residents. Incorporated in 1887, Dunn was known as a logging and turpentine town, fueled by the abundance of natural resources in the surrounding areas. The railroad ran directly through the town and played a pivotal role in its growth and development; it served as a lifeline, transporting goods and connecting the community to the outside world.
However, Dunn’s destiny took an unexpected turn. According to the Dunn Area Tourism Authority, the railroad lots were auctioned off and one of the lots was claimed for cotton. Little did anyone know, it would soon become the world’s largest wagon cotton market. The cotton industry flourished, and the town became synonymous with this vital agricultural commodity.
As Cristy Bullock says, “[Cotton] is literally the crop that built the city of Dunn,”.
The North Carolina Cotton Festival was started with the goal of educating people about this history. Bullock shares
“The purpose [of the Cotton Festival] originally was just to educate folks and have a fun little festival. It’s just grown from year to year. When it first started, we actually had a cotton gin working in the middle of downtown Dunn that has since relocated to another area. [Now] We do a free shuttle, and we take people out to the cotton gin on that Saturday.”
What started out as an educational event turned into a large festival on the first Saturday of every November. In addition to offering informative tours of the cotton gin, the festival also features a wide array of North Carolina’s finest artisans, local food, and live music.
What to Expect: The 23rd Annual North Carolina Cotton Festival
Mark your calendars for the 23rd Annual North Carolina Cotton Festival, which will take place on Saturday, November 4th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM in downtown Dunn. This year’s festival promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with a plethora of exciting activities and attractions for everyone to enjoy.
One of the biggest highlights of the festival will be the four music stages, featuring nine talented bands. Most notably, the Band of Oz who will entertain the crowd with a diverse range of musical genres. From gospel music to beach rock, there will be something to suit every musical taste.
The festival grounds will also host free amusement rides and inflatables thanks to ABC Pediatrics, providing fun and excitement for all ages.
For those interested in diving deeper into the history of cotton farming, there will be free cotton gin tours available. Visitors will have the opportunity to witness the fascinating process of cotton production and learn about its significance in shaping the town of Dunn.
Culinary enthusiasts will be delighted by the presence of four food districts, showcasing the best of North Carolina’s food scene. From mouthwatering barbecue to delectable desserts, there will be a wide variety of 25 food trucks and vendors to choose from. Over 140 local vendors and artisans will also be present, offering a diverse selection of crafts, artworks, and handmade products for attendees to peruse and purchase.
In addition to all these exciting activities, this year’s cotton festival coincides with the 22nd Annual Dunn Shriners Club Car Show. Car enthusiasts will have the opportunity to marvel at a stunning display of classic and vintage cars, showcasing the beauty and craftsmanship of these timeless vehicles.
As the festival enters its 23rd year, the Dunn Area Tourism Authority, with Cristy Bullock at the helm, has worked tirelessly to make this event a true celebration of Dunn’s agricultural legacy. Last year’s efforts paid off, as the festival attracted an impressive turnout of over 10,000 guests from all across North Carolina and even parts of the East Coast. Our CloudWyze team is looking forward to attending this year’s festival as the presenting sponsor!
Looking to the Future
When asked about the future of the festival, Bullock expressed her primary objective: continuously transforming it into a destination event. This could involve expanding it into a multi-day extravaganza, featuring big-name bands, and even more captivating attractions. The growth and success of the Cotton Festival heavily relies on the support of the Dunn community and generous sponsorships from local businesses.
As a 501-(c)(3) Non-Profit organization, the Dunn Area Tourism Authority does not generate any revenue from this event. Bullock passionately describes the North Carolina Cotton Festival as the Dunn Area Tourism Authority’s love letter to the people of Dunn.
Sponsoring this event is an incredible way to demonstrate your support for the vibrant Dunn community. If you’re not able to financially contribute or attend, Bullock says sharing the festival on social media and spreading the word is a great way to support the event.
CloudWyze in Communities
The North Carolina Cotton Festival is more than just nostalgia and celebration; it’s a demonstration of Dunn’s commitment to embracing innovation. It’s about looking to the future while preserving the past.
As the proud Presenting Sponsor of the North Carolina Cotton Festival, CloudWyze is dedicated to enhancing the experiences of our rural community members through the power of high-speed internet. Imagine a future where our local farmers can access real-time market information, manage their crops with precision, and expand their global reach.
With CloudWyze’s cutting-edge technology, we can connect our rural communities to the world, empowering them to thrive in an increasingly digital age.