North Carolina Rice Festival – Celebrating History

By Paige Brown | This year marks the third annual North Carolina Rice Festival. This two-day festival will take place September 17-18, 2016 at the brand new Brunswick Riverwalk in Belville. Food, fun, arts and crafts, educational activities, and live music will come together here in a celebration of the rich history of rice cultivation in the Cape Fear.

Shrimp gumbo, red beans and rice, Creole dirty rice, and a variety of rice puddings and desserts are among the many mouthwatering dishes you may find. The competitive ‘Rice Cook-off’ is one of the highlights of the festival with awards given out for seafood, meat, and vegetable rice combinations, along with dessert recipes. Classic fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers will also be available from the many food vendors. To wash it all down, step over to the beer garden.

Don’t forget your dancing shoes! From 9-12 on Saturday and Sunday, The Big Kahuna Beach Party gets things started with classic beach music. The CocoLoco Party band plays a wide variety of music from 1-5 on Saturday. On Sunday from 1-5, you can dance your heart out to songs like ‘Carolina Girls’, ‘Gone Fishing’, and ‘Under the Boardwalk’ performed by The Imitations.

Grand southern plantation houses and miles of rice fields once flanked the western bank of the Cape Fear River. Rice was a major economic driver for plantations such as Orton, Kendall, Lilliput, and Pleasant Oaks for roughly 100 years (approx. 1731 – 1830). Only Orton Plantation still stands. Because rice cultivation during this period was very labor intensive, hundreds of slaves were brought in to work the fields. Diverse cultures came along with groups of slaves. One such culture belongs to a group of people known as the Gullahs, descendants of enslaved Africans who lived in the southeast and worked the rice fields. If you have ever visited the Charleston, SC City Market, it is likely you have seen the Gullah women weaving sweetgrass baskets. Learn about their customs, traditions, language, stories, and song.

Get up close and personal with birds of prey at the Cape Fear Raptor Center exhibit. Learn about these fascinating creatures, the important role they play in our ecosystem, and how you can make a difference. For the sportsman, Cape Fear Bowhunters will have archery demonstrations all weekend. Kids of all ages can try their hand at archery in the ‘Archery Alley’. The North Carolina Marine Fisheries will have slide shows and a recreational fishing exhibit. Officers will be on hand to talk about sustainable fishing techniques and answer questions. And Chris Tryon, co-owner of Hook, Line, and Paddle, will be giving fly fishing demonstrations. You can check out a variety of kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at their exhibit.

Brunswick River Walk

There will be lots of art and crafts booths featuring the work of local artists, a nice way to start your Christmas shopping. And for the little ones, there will be an art contest and children’s entertainment zone complete with bounce house and face painting. The art contest is open to all kids grade K-12. To enter, submit a drawing representing some aspect of the rice industry to the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce by September 12th at noon. Trophies will be awarded in all age divisions. And what would a festival be without a queen? The 2016 North Carolina Rice Festival Scholarship Pageant is currently accepting contestants from age 4-22. The pageant will crown queens in five age divisions with the Miss NC Rice Festival receiving a college scholarship. For more information, visit their website at or like them on Facebook.

Come out enjoy the fun and festivities of the North Carolina Rice Festival set in the beautiful backdrop of the Brunswick River. The Brunswick Riverwalk at Belville, an environmentally friendly 28-acre public park, held its grand opening in May of this year. The pride of Belville, the park features two-thirds of a mile of wide, accessible nature trails, a 730’ long boardwalk that winds its way through woods and freshwater marshes, an educational pavilion (made possible by a grant from Duke Energy), a large observation deck over the river, and a 125’ fishing pier.

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