New activities, events and day trips are coming up for area residents who are looking to connect with nature and the history of their community.
For the summer of 2023, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden will be taking its newly renovated heritage garden for a spin by weaving its summer programming in with NASCAR’s horticultural roots.
The crops in the heritage portion of the garden have been intentionally planted to reflect the agriculture during the early NASCAR days such as tobacco, ornamental flowering tobacco, corn and more.
According to Sheila Hanrick, director of programming, marketing, and guest experience, the main exhibit this year is Horticulture, Hooch & Outlaws in Fast Cars which debuted on May 6 during the Garden Mania event and will be on display until August 20.
“The exhibit talks about how NASCAR started because of bootlegging — moonshine. It’s tying agriculture to what we now know as NASCAR today and their green initiatives,” said Hanrick.
During Garden Mania and the Horticulture, Hooch & Outlaws in Fast Cars kickoff event, children who attended had the opportunity to build pinewood derby cars — an ode to the history of NASCAR. Families who attended also got to build planter boxes and filled them up with soil to plant flowers. According to Hanrick, these activities were made possible through a grant from the Youth Growth Stock Trust by United Way of Cumberland County.
“We are big into food sustainability as well as just the aesthetic of gardening,” she said. “We had a farm set up in their heritage garden where we could educate people about gardening just for beauty — the attractiveness of it — down to agriculture where we try to teach people how to grow their own food.
Other events that will pay homage to moonshine runners are Pondamania on June 10 and the Sunset Series events every third Friday of each month until August.
A free-flowing event beginning at 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Pondamania is a family event connecting art with nature. This will be the third Pondamania and attractions of the festival are local musical entertainers, children performing clogging, a traveling stilt walker, a bubble artist, animals to pet from Shaky Tail Farm, canvas painting, marble art, vendors, and food trucks.
“It’s a really, really fun event,” said Jessica Barnes, CFBG events manager. “This year, we are going to tie in the exhibit as well utilizing the connection we have called the Juicebox Derby.”
Juicebox Derby is a competitive kart for racers between the ages three to five years old and the race track will be located in front of the garden.
“These kids have already had some experience racing,” Hanrick said. “They are the reason why we are tying in the racing — it is to tie it back to the exhibit that is here.”
The first Sunset Series of the season is June 16 featuring the band “Jordan Lake Swimmers.” During all the Sunset Series events, which is the third Friday of the summer months, the garden’s hours will be extended to 9 p.m. for patrons to enjoy the beauty of the summer foliage at dusk while being entertained by a live local band. Originally from Apex, the Jordan Lake Swimmers will be coming to Fayetteville to perform their rendition of popular tunes with a country-bluegrass sound at 6 p.m.
“We will have a moonshine cocktail as well as Keith Smith, who is a retired NASCAR photographer,” Hanrick said. “He will tell us a little bit about his life in the NASCAR circuit.”
July’s Sunset Series is scheduled for the 21st at 6 p.m. and will feature Riggsbee Road, an all-female band from Raleigh. They will perform country, pop, and classic with a “new” grass twist to it, featuring vocal harmonies, and a big banjo.
In addition to the main events of the season, CFBG will still be running its regular programming and initiatives to connect people to nature. Barnes said the goal of therapeutic horticulture is for the garden to be a resource to the community, particularly children, the underprivileged and those who serve.
The garden will continue its environmental education department, which offers after-school programming, preschool programming, homeschool programming, field trips for local schools, as well as camps throughout the summer.
“We received a grant this year that helped Title I schools be able to come to the garden for free for field trips,” Hanrick said. “That was a one-time grant that we took advantage of to make sure those underserved populations could have an experience in the garden.”
The CFBG is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and utilizes grants and sponsorships to host, fund, and promote horticultural-centric events for the last 35 years.
“We were started in 1989 by a group of community volunteers who thought Fayetteville deserved a botanical garden. We are a great place to escape and to find peace and respite from all the noise that’s in the world and in our lives today,” said Hanrick.
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