Smithfield festival looks back

Published 8:00 pm Monday, June 23, 2014

In Smithfield this weekend, those vying for the Hampton Roads Raft Race Triple Crown will be hoping for favorable conditions.

As part of the town’s annual Olden Days Festival, the Pagan River Raft Race will take place outside Smithfield Station about 3 p.m. Saturday.

Contestants vying for the Triple Crown will then come to Suffolk on Independence Day to float (or not) down the Chuckatuck Creek at Eclipse, and travel on to Hampton at the end of August for the Freaky Kon-Tiki.

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“They build their own rafts, and hopefully they will pass the finish line,” Smithfield Special Event Coordinator Terry Rhinier said.

Rhinier said the Olden Days Festival began about 27 years ago. “It was run by volunteers until I started here about eight years ago,” she said.

Rhinier invites folks to don their hoop skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes for the event that celebrates Smithfield’s yesteryear charm.

“When it was started by the volunteers, the merchants all dressed up in old-time outfits for customers,” Rhinier said.

Festivities get underway at the Smithfield Times Gazebo on Friday, where local Anthony Snape will perform music from 6:30 p.m., and The Rhondels will keep it rocking from 8 to 9:30 p.m.

A hot rod show will be held along Main Street, and the popular Historic Ghost Walk begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Isle of Wight County Museum. Advance tickets are available at the Visitor Center, 319 Main St.

On Saturday, activities begin with the Kids’ Bike and Pet Parade at 10 a.m. The Heather Edwards Band will perform from 1 to 4 p.m. at Joyner Field, and the Vintage Alley market will be held along North Mason Street, where vendors will sell repurposed and recycled antique treasures.

Other attractions Saturday will include antique cars and military vehicles, a dunk tank, the Smithfield Farmers Market, pony rides, festival food and games, face painting and other kids’ activities.

But one event in particular draws the crowds, according to Rhinier:

“The raft race is always popular,” she said. “People stand on the bridge, and Smithfield Station is packed.”

The festival is free. “We try to offer as much back to the community for free as possible,” Rhinier said.