Like several of you, I was there for the first NIBROC Festival. A contest had been held to name the festival and Corbin spelled backwards was chosen. The carnival rides were located on a lot at 7th and Main Streets. The festival was mostly a hometown affair until the downtown businesses left for shopping centers.
The early years were fun. Most employees of the downtown stores participated in various ways, such as dressing up in yesteryear’s clothing to men growing beards. It seems like everybody was involved.
The sidewalks were crowded with merchandise for sale. Windows were decorated to blend with various themes. During the day there was always a crowd walking the streets and taking time to visit.
The location of the festival has moved from place to place trying to find a permanent home. Thankfully, downtown has become the home for the festival now. It has been located at places including the football field, the racetrack, and the civic grounds.
When businesses left the downtown area the festival started to struggle. The introduction of the concert era brought it back to life in a big way. It no longer was a hometown affair, but rather it had become a regional festival. People from far away places started attending and the festival grew. Big names took the stage at the concerts and thousands attended.
For the 50th anniversary of the festival it moved to Main Street. This was my favorite festival. I was on the committee that planned for the event. We had Corbin’s own Gary Edwards performing. Gary had headlined for many years in Las Vegas and his performance here is one I will long remember. Also, we brought in comedian Carl Hurley and the audience enjoyed his performance.
Main Street was alive with big tents at Nibroc Park and at Main and Monroe Streets. Activity included games for children daily and visitation by residents of the local nursing homes. At night excellent artists performing in both tents. That was in addition to the concerts being held on Depot Street.
We were blessed with some of the most perfect weather we have ever had for a festival. Temperatures both day and night were pleasant. Humidity was low and there was not a cloud in the sky.
The festival remained on Main Street for several years but not everybody liked it there and a few years ago it was moved back to Depot Street. I still prefer it being on Main Street. With the move it ended a long run of huge crowds attending the concerts that featured big name artists. Discussion and doubts to the festival’s future were made, but in its new setting it seems to have gained a foothold.
I have memories of a lifetime of Nibroc events, far too many to mention here. Some that come to mind are being stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel on Wilson Street with my future wife as lighting appeared and a thunderstorm was approaching. That was not fun and it was the last time I ever rode a Ferris wheel. I have fond memories of hosting the talent contest at the football field, broadcasting the Queen’s contest with Joan Barton at the Edwards Gym, televising events and playing them on the local cable, and watching the “Big O” Oscar Davenport doing wheelies down Main Street during the Nibroc parade.
As I said there are many more memories and some will be made this year. See you there!