NORMAN — Between 2000 and 2010, the population of the town of Norman nearly doubled to 138 from 72.
On Saturday during the fourth annual Norman Fest, that number swelled to well over 2,000.
Mayor Kenneth Broadway and other volunteers staged an entertaining affair, one that coincided with the town’s centennial celebration. Festivalgoers enjoyed a classic car show, live music, baked goods, freshly grilled meals, crafts and displays by nonprofit and civic organizations.
For 5-year-old Douglas Gibson Jr., it was all about the whirly bird. Jonathan Staub and Reini Grauer, of Charlotte Helicopter tours, took turns piloting new conquerors of the sky. Douglas shared the right with his father, Douglas Gibson, of Norman. Gibson said his son had been excited about the trip since early in the morning.
“I was cooking breakfast this morning and he heard it,” Gibson said. “He said, ‘Dad, they’ve started!’”
This year’s effort was a make-up session. Douglas wasn’t quite up for to the challenge in 2012.
“He wouldn’t ride it last time,” Gibson said. “It was too loud.”
The noise didn’t bother young Douglas this time around. Not even a little. He waited anxiously by the two orange cones that marked the start of the safety zone until it was his turn. When motioned forward by Reini Grauer, Douglas took his father’s hand and, without delay, walked quickly to the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter.
Gibson works for Food Lion in Southern Pines. Flying in a helicopter is not part of his daily routine. And Douglas had been in a helicopter before, but only “a fake one.” After Saturday, he had a better story to tell his kindergarten friends.
Patrons paid $30 per person for a four-minute flight above the Norman countryside. Irene Cooper, of Ellerbe, figured those four minutes “might seem like a long time up there.” They did, at least for her grandchildren, including 5-year-old Robert Ammons, of Rockingham.
The Robinson R44, fresh off the assembly line, has a $500,000 price tag. The machine has a top speed of 130 miles per hour. It consumes 17 gallons of fuel per hour, at a cost of more than $100, and can fly approximately two and one-half hours before refueling.
For Mary “Sissy” Wright, of Cordova, Saturday’s speed of roughly 75 miles per hour was enough. A Norman native, she wouldn’t dare miss Norman Fest. It’s a chance, she said, “to come back to my hometown.”
During her flight, Wright and Barbara Shy took turns pointing out known features on the landscape that they normally see from a different seat and altitude.
The festival was a family affair for grandparents Craig and Janet Collins, daughter Renee Weaver and granddaughter Lyra Godwin, along with the family dog, Sadie. The humans shielded themselves from the sun under the canopy of a large sun umbrella as Craig Collins took to throwing a bouncy ball for Sadie, a lab mix, to chase.
The family, all from Hamlet, monitored the hustle and bustle of the festival while paying particular attention to their own both. Wood-cut yard art, from ghosts and goblins to Thanksgiving-themed turkeys, were available.
Richmond County Sheriff’s Office detectives Terri Childers, Warren Strong and Cepado Robinson were on hand with a exhibit that looked both enticing and cautious — and that was what they wanted. A bowl of regular, safe candy samples was there for the taking. Right next to it was an encased display that featured controlled substances. In some cases, they didn’t look too different than regular candy. The goal is to get kids to think twice, the detectives said.
The detectives said Halloween seemed to be safer these days because door-to-door trick-or-treating wasn’t the only option for kids anymore. Police agencies and churches have teamed up with businesses in many communities to offer trunk-or-treating. From those events, Childers said, kids don’t go home unhappy.
“They get a ton of candy,” she said.
None of the detectives said they suggested eliminating door-to-door trick-or-treating. Robinson, though, said it’s best to “choose your neighborhoods” carefully.