This past weekend, our now five-piece ensemble family took advantage of one of the last days of pleasant weather of the year, and headed down to have a day of family fun in Wilson, NC, at their Whirligig Festival, probably one of the biggest shindigs the town sees all year. It was a great display of local color, framed around a curious bit of local history.
Named for a local artist with as old-fashioned a country a name as you’ll find, the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park is a beautifully crafted open-air park featuring 30 of the late Vollis Simpson’s eclectic, colorful spinning thingamajigs. For those of you who don’t know (probably most of you, and me until a couple weeks ago), a whirligig is a contraption that uses a device to catch the wind, which usually causes some other part to spin, turn, dance, twist, or make some other designated movement. And these are big contraptions. Even the biggest ones easily dance in the wind, pivoting around their central support column, with nothing more than a breeze light enough to maybe fly a kite.
The ‘gigs are constructed entirely of recycled metal bits that Vollis collected over the years. He started constructing them essentially as a hobby after he retired, and kept at it for over 20 years before his death. His estate donated them to the city of Wilson, which assembled a team to restore them, before erecting them in the new park. They did an amazing job, too. It really is a sight to behold.
The park was only recently finished, and this past weekend, they held the Whirligig Festival, which featured live music, food and craft vendors, inflatable slides and bouncy houses, human foosball, and even a small American Ninja Warrior course. It looked fun and, despite the fact that our newest Clan member Norah was a whopping eight days old, we went to see what’s up.
And it was a lot of fun. They closed off most of downtown Wilson and lined the streets with art and craft stalls and food trucks, with a special kid’s zone, inflatable games for all ages, and a host of trucks to touch and ride in. They even offered rides in a cherry picker. And all the activities were free.
It’s not often that Wilson, NC shows up on many tourists’ radar, but the annual Whirligig Festival certainly should put it right on there. Good, clean family fun, centered on a collection of truly unique and impressive works of art. Check it out:
Festival aside, the park is definitely worth seeing. Bring the young ‘uns, picnic on the lawn, and watch the whirlies gig. Just be sure to pick a windy day.