Driver Days draws thousands to village

Published 10:17 pm Monday, October 21, 2019

It takes a special village to host a festival.

And that’s what Driver did Saturday for the 26th time under ideal conditions — blue skies with wispy white clouds on a crisp morning that warmed with the sun.

The Driver Days Fall Festival had a little something for everyone — a classic car show at Berea Christian Church, wing and pie eating contests, music from the likes of Sheryl Warner and the Southside Homewreckers, Schooner and Later and The Rhondels. It also had a cornhole tournament, children’s activities including The Teddy Bear Express train, plenty of fair food as well as a beer garden, and, to start things off, the parade that, as Kurt Giometti of Chesapeake said, lasts about 45 minutes for a six-minute march through the village to the old Driver school.

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“Just the community feel, being part of the community, and really, just being able to be a part of this is unbelievable fun,” said Giometti, who was greeting people at the Master Hwang Tae Kwon Do booth.  “That’s what Driver’s all about, is just being a hometown, small (town) feel again. It’s really nice.”

The classic car show also attracted many to wander the grass in front of the church, including Ed and Janie Smith of Chesapeake, who started out looking at a 1965 Dodge Coronet 500 and made their way through the plethora of cars.

“Driver is such a nice, little quaint town,” said Janie Smith.

The Smiths have been to the festival multiple times and said what draws them back is the atmosphere in the village.

“Cars, good food, nice little shops, so it’s something for me to enjoy and him to enjoy,” Janie Smith said.

Ed Smith was all about the cars.

“I’ve just come to look at the hard work that these folks have put in to these beautiful cars,” Ed Smith said. “They look better than they did before when they were new.”

Just in front of the performance stage and adjacent to the cornhole tournament, Patrick Wilda and Juanita Eley competed in the pie-eating contest, both going face first into it. Wilda got more of it on him, and in his mouth, in the time allotted. Wilda, who moved to Suffolk from Smithfield, said a neighbor coaxed him into the contest, but it paid off.

“We love it,” Wilda said. “The parade was great. We were walking around, seeing everything. Before this pie, I ate a deep fried moon pie. … Between some beers and that, we’re good.”

And he still had room for a more conventional pie?

“I wouldn’t call it room,” Wilda said, laughing.

Meanwhile, across the street, Ted Caldwell of Suffolk wolfing down an ice cream cone while waiting for the kids, and kids-at-heart, to board the Teddy Bear Express so he could drive them through the village.

“The kids love it,” Caldwell said.

The festival was to continue Sunday, but it was canceled due to rain. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of the thousands who descended upon Driver the day before. The thousands who lined Kings Highway and Driver Lane for the parade, and those who came out for the festival, had much to entertain them.

It had a little of everything — Nansemond River High School’s marching band and Air Force JROTC, a school bus, a fire truck from the Driver Volunteer Fire Department, city officials and politicos, children dancing, candy tossing and Ken Parsons as the grand marshal.

They all marched, and even in a shortened event, Driver’s beat marched on.