Full Disclosure: I was invited as a guest to experience my very first Whirligig Festival. Isn’t that a whimsical word? Whirligig? Read on to know more about this festival and find out what in this wonderful world is a Whirligig.
When I was first invited to go to the fifteenth annual Whirligig Festival, the first question I asked myself was, WHAT IS A WHIRLIGIG? According to Wikipedia, Whirligigs are also known as pinwheels, buzzers, comic weathervanes, gee-haws, spinners, whirlygigs, whirlijigs, whirlyjigs, whirlybirds, or plain whirly. I suggest reading that list of terms out loud for a giggle.
So to my delight, I learned there is a park called Whirligig Park in Wilson, North Carolina filled with giant whirligigs and an annual festival named for these whimsical spinners! Sign me up! I went to see these wonderful, awe-inspiring “gee-haws” in person during the weekend-long annual Whirligig Festival.
While walking around the park, I found a sign telling me more about the origins of these moving sculptures. The artist behind these world-famous sculptures is a North Carolina native named Vollis Simpson. He started building these in his 60s. He used to have them on his property. Eventually, Vollis Simpson worked out a partnership with the city of Wilson to move them to a city park. He passed away in his 90s. His Whirligigs are displayed most prominently in Wilson at the Whirligig Park, but he also has a few whirligigs erected around the United States, including New York City, Baltimore, and Raleigh.
Festival kicks off with Feast of the East
For the 15th iteration of the Whirligig Festival and my very first, I was lucky to experience the inaugural dinner on Friday night called Feast of the East. This fundraising dinner was catered by The Blind Pig and all-you-can-eat oysters from Carolina Oysters. Gloves and shucking tools provided to shuck your own delicious oysters. The proceeds from this dinner benefited Gig360 Young Professionals non-profit and the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum.
Whirligig Festival Saturday kicked off with a Whirli-Run 5k and 10K.
I woke up early on Saturday to cheer for my friend Carrie who ran the 5k. She placed 3rd in the women’s 5k race. What I found amazing was a 10-year-old local girl won first place to the women’s 5k race. I learned from a man who ran the race that her grandfather trained him as an athlete when he was younger and how that day’s race was a slow day for her! (Photo of beaming winner shared with permission.)
Whirligig Festival spreads over a six-block radius.
I spent the rest of the festival walking the six-block radius and shopping the art vendors. Talented local artisans had tables displaying things like mini whirligigs, handmade pottery, and home decor. It’s a wonderful place to walk-off festival food while getting a jump-start on your Christmas shopping. Live music and kid-friendly attractions make it age-appropriate for everyone in the family! I didn’t stay for Sunday but on Sunday, there’s also a Warrior Obstacle course for the American Ninja fans!
I was the only adult in line to ride the lift-trucks with Wilson Energy. Totes worth it.
What’s a North Carolina festival without smoked meat?
I was immediately drawn to Big Fat Daddy’s food display. I enjoyed their pulled pork and also ordered a crab dip loaded french fries. (You already know I love a great loaded fries.) Their crab dib bread bowls were featured on Food Network! If these don’t tickle your appetite, there are also food vendors slinging funnel cakes, tacos, chicken skewers, pitas, and more!
Whirligig Festival supports local artists.
I loved walking around chatting with local artists. Pictured above is Kevin of Aloe Frost (his website linked at the bottom of the post). I encourage you to check out his darling pots. He has a collection called Moodies and adorable nudist gardener pots. Just trust me! He ships!
All-in-all, I had such a wonderful time, enjoying fall weather and festivities at the Whirligig Festival. It’s less than a 2-hour drive from the Triangle and I’m seriously considering adding this to my yearly fall activities list!
Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, 301 Goldsboro St. S., Wilson, NC.
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