Back in the days when the nearest dry-goods store might be a 15-mile journey on horseback, county residents looked forward to heading to town for the one day each month the region’s circuit court judge arrived to preside. For this region, the celebratory Court Days took place in downtown Rocky Mount.
Blacksmiths came to trade guns, powder and knives. Musicians entertained the crowds. Businessmen cut deals. Eventually, farmers’ wives and children tagged along to shop and socialize. Court Days was a major community event through at least the early 1900s.
Rocky Mount’s nonprofit group Community Partnership will feature traditional festivities with its fifth annual Court Days — Making Music and Memories on June 8. The free event runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rocky Mount Farmers’ Market, 435 Franklin Street.
Court Days is part of the Mountains of Music Homecoming, a 9-day regional lineup of Appalachian cultural events and concerts along the Crooked Road music heritage trail.
Court Days typically draws a crowd of up to 2,000 for a day of local bands, clogging and flatfooting, a pie-eating contest, watermelon seed-spitting and eating contests, vendors, food, children’s activities, open mic, a cooking demo, a special library program, the Junk and Disorderly rummage sale and a bake-off.
Donna Wray with Community Partnership recommends attendees bring chairs, which they can set up in the area around the Farmers’ Market. She’ll continue to accept entries for the bake-off, vendor and rummage sale space, and the clogging/flatfooting contest through June 1. Those interested may call 420-8391.
Two bluegrass bands are scheduled this year. Too Young, Too Old will play from 10 a.m. to noon with special guest appearances by The Old Dominion Cloggers of Martinsville. Wound Tight takes the stage from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
The clogging/flatfooting contest runs from 10 a.m. to noon. All ages and styles are welcome, and winners receive cash prizes.
The pie-eating contest — always a huge hit, Wray said — is divided into men’s and women’s and boys’ and girls’ competitions. She added that they try to snag local business leaders, who must eat the pie face first with their hands behind their backs. The contest begins at 1 p.m.
The seed-spitting contest winner walks away with the distinct title of being able to spit watermelon seeds the farthest. There will also be a watermelon-eating contest.
The Rocky Mount branch of the Franklin County Library will host an all-ages Instrument Petting Zoo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those who’d like to explore the banjo, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, violin, viola, dulcimer and resonator guitar. Visitors can receive free mini-lessons from musician Dean Smith. While there, patrons may peruse the library’s monthly book sale and sign up for summer reading programs.
Franklin County Parks and Recreation will offer inflatables and carnival-style games. All children’s activities are free.
The cooking demonstration features Charles Parker, Southwest Virginia Culinary Ambassador, whipping up delectable creations with ingredients from Farmers’ Market vendors. The market will remain open for Court Days with its usual vendors selling plants, baked goods, produce and hand-made items.
For more info on Court Days, visit Historicrockymount.com or visit the Franklin County Court Days Facebook page.