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Sounds in the Town
STAFF ANGELA HARNE
GROUP EDITOR & PUBLISHER
BRENDA MONTY STAFF WRITER
photo by Amber Revels- Sto c ks The Green Grass Cloggers demonstrate a kick-step on the West Avenue Stage during the August 2018 Sounds in the Town.
AMBER REVELS-STOCKS STAFF WRITER
DONNA MARIE WILLIAMS STAFF WRITER
VOL 11 NO. 2 — WINTER/SPRING 2018
LAYOUT & DESIGN
AYDEN © is published biannually by The Times-Leader newspaper. Contents are the property of this newspaper and the town of Ayde n a nd m a y not b e reproduced without consent of the publisher. To ad v e r t ise in t his p ub lica t ion please contact The Times- Leader at 252- 7 46- 6261. 5
Main Street Committee uses
g n i c an
to help revitalize
By Amber Revels-Stocks
yden’s downtown used to be a vibrant shopping center, featuring plenty of shops and restaurants. Over time, that has faded, but one group is working to bring back downtown as the heart of town. The Main Street Committee is part of a national program for small towns with a population under 35,000 called Main Street America, according to Ayden Manager Steve Harrell. The committee consists of approximately 20 people, who attend most meetings. “In 2015, Ayden became part of the Main Street Program,” Harrell said. “The purpose of the program is to provide economic development activities to revive downtowns. Downtowns have died. When I was a kid in the ‘60s, downtowns were where you’d go to shop. Now we’re trying to bring that back.” The Main Street program consists of economic vitality, design, promotion and organization to form a transformation strategy to bring people back to downtowns throughout the nation, according to Main Street America. “The purpose of the committee is to try and revitalize our downtown,” Harrell said. In addition to helping the Chamber of Commerce with Christmas Town, the Main Street Committee facilitates a façade grant program that will match up to $2,000 to improve the look of downtown buildings. It also provides recommendations to the Ayden governing board, serves as a forum for downtown’s stakeholders and provides promotional activities, including a mission statement for downtown. The town provides $13,500 per year to the committee to help it achieve its goal of revitalizing downtown. “Main Street is starting a new endeavor called BOLT or Businesses Open Late on Thursday,” Harrell said. “Businesses downtown will stay open until 8 p.m. There will be food vendors, crafts and other things to invite people to walk around downtown and see what Ayden has to oﬀer.” Crafts range from coloring pages to making Christmas ornaments, according to Ayden Chamber of Commerce
director Laura Todd. “The whole idea behind those kinds of things is to get people excited about coming downtown,” Harrell said. One of the Main Street Committee’s most popular ideas is Sounds in the Town, a summer dance series that started in 2017. “Sounds in the Town was birthed out of the Main Street Committee,” Todd said. “We were talking about programs that had been successful in other communities that could possibly work in Ayden. Our new town manager came up with the idea. He has a real love of beach music and shagging.” Harrell added, “I suggested at a Main Street Committee meeting that we have three beach music nights, one each in June, July and August.” Harrell is an avid Carolina shag dancer, so he reached out to the ENC Shag Club in Greenville. Instructors taught participants how to dance before having an open dance where dancers could show oﬀ their skills. The committee had a specialized dance floor built, so avid dancers would not have to worry about ruining their shoes on the streets. “We attempted to do it three times that first year, but only managed once because of weather. The other two got rained out,” Todd said. “That first time was very successful, and we had a great response and turnout that night.” When Sounds in the Town proved to be a hit, the committee decided to have it return for summer 2018 with four diﬀerent types of music.
“We wanted to spread the wealth in terms of the kinds of dancing rather than three beach music dances,” Harrell said. “We have a great diversity in Ayden, and we wanted to tap into all of our communities.” Dan and Brenda Tew of the ENC Shag Club came to Ayden in June to teach Carolina shag dancing. DJ Layman Elks provided music. The Tews met at a shag dancing event and decided to start teaching it. They taught shag dancing during the 2017 season and decided to come back in 2018. “Steve Harrell called us and wanted to know if we’d come back. We remembered how hot it was last year; other than that, it was fun,” Brenda said. “We want younger people to learn (the Carolina shag). That’s why we want to have dance lessons, so younger people can join in too.” Dan added, “(Sounds in the Town) is a very safe atmosphere for younger people when you go out to dance. The people range from very young to very old.” Shag is performed to music with a four-four time signature, which means it can be performed to almost any type of music. “There might be a few kinds that are impossible to shag to, but you can shag to almost everything,” Brenda said. “You just have to vary the speed to match the beat.” If one can count to six, one can shag, according to Dan. He managed to teach two Russian girls visiting Ayden how to
shag even though neither spoke much English. For the next two dances of 2018, the Main Street Committee partnered with the Folk Arts Society of Greenville. “The partnership with the Folk Arts Society came about because of a personal contact I have with them,” Harrell said. “My girlfriend has been contra dancing with them for 15 years, so I went to contra with her a few times and met a lot of the people in the Folk Arts Society. When I started talking about the possibility of doing a contra night out here, they really got on board.” The Folk Arts Society holds monthly salsa and contra dance nights at the Jaycee building in Greenville. They were excited to come to Ayden, according to society treasurer and secretary Elizabeth Smith. “We love to come out into the community and show them what the Folk Arts Society has to oﬀer,” Elizabeth Smith said. “Ayden’s very close to us, so when Steve (Harrell) called to see if we would come out for the last two events, (the society) was excited to come out and show people what’s available in Greenville.” In July, Procopio Serrano and Heidi Diaz-Serrano of Greenville taught salsa
dancing with music provided by DJ Ramon. The Serranos have been teaching salsa for the Folk Arts Society for 18 years, but they have been dancing for longer than that. “Heidi has been doing this forever, but I started in college,” Procopio said. “We love to dance, so when the society asked if we would teach, we jumped on board.” The Serranos love to teach salsa because they love to spread their culture. “Any chance to get out here and teach people about our culture, about the Hispanic culture, is a good one,” Procopio said. Salsa is a Caribbean-inspired dance with an odd number of steps per four-beat count. It lends itself to several diﬀerent moves and artistic expression, according to the Serranos. “There’s the world traveler. He wants to go everywhere,” Procopio said, taking large steps. “Then there’s the cool guy. He doesn’t do anything but move his hips.” Heidi added, “The cool guy makes us work harder, ladies. He doesn’t do anything, so we have to do all the work.” Even people who think they cannot dance can salsa, according to Heidi. It just takes practice. “The basic steps are fairly simple, but
you can add more personality and more diﬃculty as you go along,” Procopio said. The Green Grass Cloggers performed contra dancing while also helping people learn the moves in August. They were supported by caller Gerry Prokopowicz and folk band Lane Hollis and Friends. Contra is an Appalachian folk dance similar to square dancing with a caller giving directions. The main diﬀerence between the two is that contra dancing takes place mostly in lines that move towards or away from the band. Dancers will interact with most of the other dancers during a single song instead of staying with a particular partner or small group. It involves a lot of “traveling,” according to Prokopowicz. It is basically a form of exercise for people who like to dance, he added. While most dancing involves memorizing multiple steps and the order in which they must be performed, contra dance is less taxing on the memory, he said. “I call it out, and people do it,” Prokopowicz said. “It’s a lot less taxing on people’s brains and memories. If you can follow directions, you can contra dance.” Sounds in the Town returned for a surprise dance in September with Susan Waldo from Stage of Grace, who taught classic line dances, such as the Hustle and the Bikers Shuﬄe. Harvey Wade from Touch of Class DJs provided music.
“We had such a blast that someone came up with the idea that we should have one more dance before the end of the series, so we added an extra dance with line dancing,” Harrell said. Sounds in the Town has been a great promotional tool for Ayden. “It’s shown up on Facebook, it’s on some Greenville blogs and we’ve advertised on multiple websites,” Harrell said. “We’ve had a really great turnout, and we plan to keep it up next year, too.” People came from all over Pitt County for the dances. The ENC Shag Club and the Green Grass Cloggers brought everyone associated with their clubs. In addition, the Serranos brought out several members of the Latina community, including Greene County residents. “I had people who told me they came down to learn the dances and had never been to downtown Ayden before,” Harrell said. “The Folk Arts people, after they were finished, I know all went down to Gwendy’s Goodies that night to grab
coﬀee and snacks before they had left. There is definitely an economic impact from the event.” Sounds in the Town will definitely return in 2019, Todd said. “We try to get bigger and bigger every year. This year in downtown Ayden, we had an event every month from May to November. May was the barbeque festival, which Main Street and the chamber help with. June, July, August and October were Sounds in the Town. September was the Collard Festival, and November will be Christmas Town,” she said. “Next year, we may expand it even further. I don’t know what next summer will bring yet.” While the Main Street Committee has not started planning 2019’s dances yet, it does know one thing it will be keeping the same – The signs. “What’s so cool
about the signs is that they’re a very oldfashioned way of sign making,” Harrell said. “Craig Malrose, an art professor at ECU, literally cuts wood blocks out and stamps the signs by hand. They’re old fashioned wood blocked signs, and you don’t see those very often.” Todd added, “We actually had people keeping those (after the events).” Ayden’s Main Street Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at Gwendy’s Goodies, 514 Second St., Ayden. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to participate regardless of whether one is a business owner, a property owner, a resident or a stakeholder.
Far left: Lane Hollis & Friends perform folk music in August 2018. Far left, below: People dance to “The Cupid Shuffle” in June 2018. Left: Heidi Diaz-Serrano (second from left) and Procopio Serrano (second from right) teach dancers an open step in July 2018. Right, top: Sophia Henning, 5, and Gary Ambert put their new salsa movies to the test. Right, below: Brenda Tew (left) critiques a few steps during shag lessons. Far right, top: Dan and Brenda Tew demonstrate how Dan signals Brenda for turns, using taps on her hand. Far right, below: Instructor Procopio Serrano spins Tolisha Solis.
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g Marchin Chargers
By Donna Marie Williams
The Marching Chargers, under the direction Michael Blackmon (front row, third from left) have improved since he became the band director.
The Marching Chargers of AydenGrifton High School are making a comeback. In 2016, the marching band lost its teacher Michael Parton, who resigned from his position mid-way through the school year. A substitute teacher filled in before Michael Blackmon was hired. Blackmon started in the fall 2017 semester. “Things were kind of disorientated and unorganized. A lot of the traditions had fallen by the wayside. It was a challenge to get things going again,” Blackmon said. Blackmon faced the challenges of lack of student interest and lack of student 12
trust in him. “There is just a subculture around marching band that I am trying to change. In general, the students not in marching band see it as social suicide or a joke,” Blackmon said. During Blackmon’s first year leading the Marching Chargers, the band did not compete. “Last year, they didn’t compete at all. We couldn’t even get a full halftime show on the (football) field. It was a struggle to get students to go to rehearsal,” Blackmon said. Since becoming the band director, Blackmon has worked to revamp the
marching band program. “This year, by doing good music and doing that music really well, competing, winning the trophies, and students having so much fun, it has started to change that culture. It’s still a battle,” Blackmon said. Students in marching band began the 2018-19 marching band season in summer 2018, when they attended summer band camp. Summer camp provided the students the opportunity to learn basic marching commands and begin learning the music for the field show. “Most of the time, we take students who have never marched before and have them marching half of the field show in
two weeks,” Blackmon said. One basic marching command that was learned was how to backwards march, which requires a student walk backwards while using only the balls of their feet. Their upper bodies must remain straight without movement. A sense of belonging began to foster within the students. “Because we start before school starts with band camp, you get to start the first day of school knowing a whole room full of people. You get to know people, so you don’t feel so alone. You have that support system and know you have these people to help you,” said junior flutist Makayla Buckalew. Some students were apprehensive at first when they learned the routines. “There is a certain move in one of our movements when we had to go in between other people. The first time I was skeptical. I used another student as a shield. There are a bunch of other instruments on the field, and you could get hit. There is always the possibility that you may fall or get hit. Just save your instrument,” said junior alto saxophonist Lily Baker. Color guard junior Jayla Phillips was also worried the first time she had to incorporate her flag work with the movements of the band. “When Mr. Blackmon told me, I looked at him like he was crazy. The first time I (marched and had movement with the flags), I almost hit myself with the pole. Then it got easier,” Phillips said. Not only does marching band require coordination and synchronization, but it also requires physical and mental abilities. “It’s extremely tiring, especially while you’re doing a show or parade. You’re trying to give it your all. Sometimes you march at diﬀerent tempos. You have to keep up with the music. It’s a mental strain as well as physical. There is just a point in the season you just march. You don’t have to think about the moving part of it,” said senior Emma Clemmons. Clemmons has been a Marching Charger for four years and is the band’s drum major, who is responsible for conducting the band throughout the performance. “In your average 8-minute show, you march almost a mile while playing instruments and music that you
memorize,” Blackmon said. Students participated in their first competition Oct. 19, 2018, at Greene Central High School’s Band Day. Unfortunately, they did not take home any trophies. “Their first competition at Greene Central High School when they walked oﬀ the field after completing the full three movements of the halftime show, I couldn’t have been more proud of them at that moment,” Blackmon said. Marching band competitions consist of eight judging categories, including music eﬀect, music performance, visual eﬀect, visual performance, general eﬀect, color guard, percussion and drum major. “Judges are looking for a high level of musical and visual performance and an entertaining show concept,” Blackmon said. Before the competition even begins, students meet at Ayden-Grifton High School for an early morning 2-hour rehearsal session. Then students load all the equipment, instruments and uniforms into the buses and travel to the competition. There, they dress for their performance and have a 30-minute warm up session. Finally, it is time to compete. “It’s one of the most fun things in my life. I didn’t expect competitions to be as much fun,” said sophomore Paige Stallings. This is Stallings’ third year in marching band. She plays the clarinet. The students competed in their second competition Oct. 29, 2018, at the White Oak Band Classic. This time, the students took home seven trophies. “My proudest accomplishment is my first place trophy for drum major I got at the White Oak Band Classic. I led (the entire band) and conducted them during the show. It’s something I have to do individually. It’s a solo endeavor,” Clemmons said. Along with Clemmons’ trophy for drum major, students received trophies for color guard performance, visual performance, music performance and general eﬀect. The students competed Nov. 17, 2018, at West Craven High School. The Marching Chargers took home four third place trophies in music, percussion, visual and Overall Class A. They also placed
Marching Chargers Andrew Sutton (left) and Paige Stallings are ready to show off their skills.
second for general eﬀect. “This is the largest number of bands we’ve gone up against since our first competition at Greene Central,” Blackmon said. Competing remains a favorite aspect for marching band members. Band members also enjoy the shoutouts. Students have the option to pay a dollar to write a note to another band student. The note is then read over the loud speaker before or after the competitions. “It’s really great. Everybody gets a laugh from it, and it shows pride. It’s an adrenaline rush. Everyone is waiting to hear their name. When they do, it’s an amazing feeling,” Buckalew said, explaining the notes contain inside jokes or can be words of encouragement. The Marching Chargers also participate in local parades and local community events and perform during halftime at Ayden-Grifton’s football games. Each year, they perform at the Winterville Watermelon, Ayden Collard and Grifton 13
Top: A fellow competitor congratulates (L-R) Marching Chargers Gabby Baker, Lily Baker, Makayla Buckalew, Emma Clements, James Morgan, Jayla Philips, Leondria Olds and band director Michael Blackmon on their seven-trophy win performance at the White Oak Classic band competition. Bottom: Marching Chargers (left: L-R) Emma Clements, Lily Baker and Makayla Buckalew prepare to compete in the Greene Central Band Day at Greene Central High School.
Shad festivals, plus at Ayden’s and Grifton’s Christmas parades. They have also performed at Caswell Development Center in Kinston. “We probably do at least 20 to 30 public performances a year,” Blackmon said. The Marching Chargers consists of five percussion players, 14 wind players and seven color guard members. “They’ve grown so much since I’ve been here. In the last month, they’ve made really good improvements,” Blackmon said, adding marching band is much more than the routines, music and instruments the students learn to play. “It teaches them so many diﬀerent skills aside from movement and music. It teaches them teamwork, cooperation, time management and dedication far past something they would do in their normal classes.” Baker added, “I learned how to manage my time better. I just learned to respect others a bit better. I’m a very opinionated person. Marching band has helped me respect other people’s opinions and choices a lot better.” Students have also learned their skills can reach to other aspects. “I learned that I’m not constrained to only one instrument. I can also play other instruments okay. It boosts my confidence and makes me think I can pursue other things besides music,” said first-year Marching Charger sophomore electric bassist Macy Speight. Marching band also helped students establish better communication skills. “I learned how to get along with people in a group better and be able to communicate with people I don’t really know,” said sophomore flutist Meagan Carraway. Marching band also provides students a school family. “It just comes down to family because this isn’t a thing someone can do themselves. Everybody has to work together 100 percent of the time,” Clemmons said. Freshman percussionist Sam Huxel added, “I just recently moved here from Arkansas. I didn’t know anybody at the school, but I already decided I wanted to do marching band. The Friday before school started, Mr. Blackmon invited me to sit with the band for the football game.
The Marching Chargers compete in Greene Central’s Band Day and later celebrate.
He let me play a bass drum. It was really fun because it gave me a chance to make friends … otherwise, I might not have had as many friends.” The Marching Chargers continue to strive for excellence. “Next year, I would like to have more students in band and have five competitions instead of three,” Blackmon said, adding he already has next year’s show theme picked out. The Marching Chargers consists of Huxel, Baker, Buckalew, Carraway, Speight, sophomore flutist Samya El-shaer, junior clarinet player Emily Connor, trumpet players junior Christopher Kay, junior Marcus Hawkes and freshman Kevin Rodenbaugh, sophomore tenor saxophonist Andrew Sutton and percussionists sophomore James Morgan and junior Gabby Baker. Ayden Middle School and Grifton School eighth-graders Sarah Clements on alto sax, Anthony Garcia on trombone, Jamari Darden on baritone sax and Micha Phelps on tuba also perform with the Marching Chargers. Colorguard members include Phillips, freshmen Ya’Niyah Edwards and Lillian Baker and juniors Leondria Olds, Neriah Little and Taizhe Darden.
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Darlene Pollard BY ANGELA HARNE Darlene Pollard is a fixture in the Ayden community. If the Ayden Christian Care Center is open, Pollard will definitely be among the volunteers. She has volunteered at the center for the past 10 years. Pollard, 63, moved to Ayden 12 years ago. She is a 1974 graduate of AydenGrifton High School and attended college, studying home health.
Volunteering is in her blood, Pollard said. “Anywhere a volunteer is needed, I’m there. I get strength from God to help others. I let God use me and keep me in good health, so I can help others,” she said. Pollard volunteers four times a week at the Ayden Christian Care Center, a local food pantry. She helps stock the
pantry and pack food boxes for clients. She also frequents local nursing homes to visit the residents. “Sometimes our elderly are left alone and put out to pasture. I want them to know there are people who care about them. I assist them with their hair and tell them about God,” Pollard said. “I am a servant of God and a woman of many hats, loving what I do.”
Darlene Pollard is a fixture in the Ayden Christian Care Center where she volunteers with Dennis Levin (above) and Bill Norris (right). She volunteers her time stocking boxes with nonperishable foods for the center’s clients.
Volunteering gives Pollard an adrenaline rush, she admits. “When I hear there is a need, I rush to the call. My stuﬀ doesn’t matter; I’m out the door, if I can help,” she said. Pollard also volunteers at her church, Ayden Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “I love my church. It is like one I’ve never been to before. Everyone loves everyone; there is so much love,” Pollard said. “It doesn’t matter what the church function is, I’m here to help. I’ll cook food. Help with a yard sale; they call me their yard sale promoter. Whatever is needed to help a program along. They also say, ‘You know everybody.’ Being a servant goes beyond the four walls of a church.” Pollard’s assistance also goes beyond a helping hand. Sometimes it comes in the form of advice, tidbits or fun facts. Take for example an election cycle. Pollard will tell others they need to “exercise their right and vote,” she said. If she is at the grocery store and notices a good bargain, she will tell her neighbors and strangers, alike. “I never keep my mouth shut,” Pollard said with a smile. “I’m big, bold and beautiful. I’m one of a kind and very unique. My motto is: ‘Tell somebody. Tell everybody because guess what? They are telling everyone
else.’ I try to encourage others to be their best. When I go into a store, I’m upbeat and try to uplift others. People seem to like what I do and how I am. “My spare time is other people’s time. I always fit in others with my daily schedule.” Pollard seeks out others to help, too.
“If I’m at the supermarket, I’ll sit in my car and wait for my mission. It is embedded in me — a gift from God. If I see an elderly person, I will get out of my car and help them,” she said. “It is heartwarming. I have never met a stranger. I get excited to make others feel excited.”
I am a servant of God and a woman of many hats, loving what I do.
Pollard relies heavily on her faith. â€œAll depends on Godâ€™s will. Iâ€™m glad to be a servant of God, and I thank God He gives me strength,â€? Pollard said. Pollard is a staple in the food pantry and a â€œcaregiver of many,â€? said center volunteer Shirley Swaggerty. â€œDarlene is a hard worker and very dependable,â€? she added. Dennis Levin has volunteered with Pollard for at least 10 years at the Ayden Christian Center. â€œMs. Darlene is always here and brings joy to our clientele. There isnâ€™t a client here who she doesnâ€™t know. She knows their story and personality. Sheâ€™s out in the community interacting with them,â€? Levin said. Fellow volunteer Bill Norris added, â€œSheâ€™s a true angel. We go back a long way. We laugh and joke a lot, but when it comes down to hard work, Darlene is right there.â€? Aside from her avid volunteerism throughout town, Pollard is also known as the Collard Queen. For three consecutive years, Pollard held the title of collard champ, consuming the most
Darlene Pollard (left) and volunteer Jackie Jones review the client list.
collards by a female in a set time in the Ayden Collard Festivalâ€™s collard-eating contest. Her highest consumption weighed in at 6.5 pounds. â€œI lived to tell about it but never again. Now I coach other competitors,â€?
Pollard said. Pollard knew she had to compete at least once because of her name. â€œPollard, collard,â€? she said with a chuckle. Pollard also enjoys gardening and cooking.
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