Shad Drop rings in the new year, raises ‘Mo’ money for festival

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By Beyonca Mewborn Correspondent,
2024-01-03

GRIFTON — More than 200 people rang in the New Year with help from a big bright fish descending from the sky during the second annual Grifton Shad Drop.

The lowering of the lighted shad from a Hugo Fire Department boom capped off a big celebration and fundraiser for the annual Shad Festival at the Grifton Depot. The celebration featured a reverse raffle with a $10,000 prize and a traditional New Year’s feast.

It was the last of several 2023 fundraisers for the April festival organized by a committee of townspeople who sold 325 tickets at $100 each. Ticket holders wined and dined while emcee John Moore called out the numbers steadily through the night to narrow the field as the clock closed in on midnight.

“All these are volunteers, they volunteer to do what they do for the Shad Festival, which is the oldest festival in Pitt County, one of the oldest festivals in the state of North Carolina, and they come out here and make a safe environment for folks,” said Moore, a beloved local radio personality and mainstay at Shad events. “It’s great family fun, you can bring the kids, the kids can play, and it’s a great opportunity to support the Shad Festival.”

Ticket holders were treated inside the depot to ham, fried chicken, sausage medallions, collards, black-eyed peas and banana pudding catered by Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden as well as chicken, fries and biscuits from Bojangles. The Shad Committee provided fruit and vegetable trays, and the bar was fully stocked with beer and wine, and plenty of champagne for the New Year’s toast at Midnight. People who did not get a ticket were welcomed to The Depot lawn to stay warm by the fire pit and watch the Shad Drop.

Folks from Grifton and surrounding areas came out to participate, including members of local civic organizations, Grifton first responders, local clergy, Grifton government officials, and more.

Shad Festival Committee Vice President Tyra Sparrow said the event is their biggest fundraiser of the year. “This is what really makes the Shad Festival what it is and enables us to make it a huge event for the town,” said Sparrow.

Grifton Town Manager Oryan Lowry said was among the reverse raffle participants and even paid $10 for a second chance ticket after his original number was called earlier in the evening.

“Very seldom do you get a chance to get together after the holidays and meet new people, and it’s an opportunity for me to come out and show my support for the town of Grifton,” said Lowry. “I think it’s a great event, and I’ve even heard some statistics that it’s the largest reverse raffle in the state of North Carolina, and the smallest depot in the state of North Carolina.”

Grifton Town Commissioner Jessie Daigneault volunteers on the Shad Festival Committee and she said that it was a wonderful turnout. “I think that this being our second annual Shad Drop and us promoting it on social media attributed to the event being more well-known and bringing out such a big crowd,” said Daigneault.

Committee President Randall Hart said that he thinks the lure of cash money contributed to the excitement.

“What’s different this year is that we’re giving away money instead of an old Model A car,” he said. “We were expecting a good crowd, but we didn’t know we were going to have this kind of turnout I think this is great, we’ve had a great turnout, a great meal, and somebody’s going to walk away with a lot of money.”

Door prizes also were awarded throughout the night, ranging from gift certificates to $100 bills and a book entitled Growing Up Grifton as told by George Sugg, brother of Shad Festival Committee member Tommy Sugg, who died last year.

Winners didn’t have to be present to win. As the field narrowed to five, it included an anonymous donor who purchased a ticket online and Keith Casper, Ted Allen, Sarah Riley and second-chance-ticket buyer Lowry. The five agreed to end the drawing and split the winnings evenly, with the anonymous ticket holder donating their winnings back to the Shad Festival Committee.

When it was time to countdown to midnight, everybody came outside on the back lawn and the back deck of the train depot and watched the Shad Festival’s Mascot Mo the Shad lowered, and all the kids screamed happy new year and used everyone used their noisemakers.

Daigneault said that her hope for the New Year is to work with the Board of Commissioners and the town manager to start a Grifton Chamber of Commerce, and that she thinks that the 2024 Shad Festival will be bigger and better than last year’s. “We’re always striving for bigger and better,” said Daigneault.

Lowry said his hopes in the new year for the town of Grifton is more economic development growth. “But for me personally, I just want to lose some weight, and that’s about it,” said Lowry.

Sparrow said that she also has some resolutions and that she wants to start anew and start fresh in 2024. “I’m opening a new chapter, I’m ready to see what we can do for our community and see where Grifton is going, and I feel like it’s going in a great direction,” said Sparrow.

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