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Forty years ago this week, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company put on the biggest picnic in North Carolina history. There was a stage at midfield in Groves Stadium, where Sound Generation, the Eliminators and the Roy Clark show performed. There were carnival rides and free food and drink across Thirtieth Street at the fairgrounds.
50,000 people showed up. They ate 55 tons of food and drank 10,000 gallons of drinks. And they danced in their seats and everywhere else.
The show began with dignitaries onstage at 11:30 AM and an unplanned event. A stray dog wandered onto the field at Groves and, excited by the crowd, raced from the end zone to the stage. That got the crowd going, and it never stopped. By the time Roy Clark arrived a little over an hour later, the fun was well beyond anyone’s control.
What was this all about? R.J. Reynolds, the company that provided the fuel for the economic engine that built the Twin City, was celebrating its 100th birthday. It was an unseasonably hot day, with temperatures hovering around 90. And when Clark and Buck Trent teamed up for their version of “Duelin’ Banjos”, the heat level ticked up a few more notches. By mid-afternoon, folks were seeking shade and covering their heads with handkerchiefs and napkins. But a good time was had by all.
A week later, the Forsyth County Public Library formally opened it’s brand new North Carolina Room. After all, those tens of thousands of folks who had made RJR and its many contractors a big success needed a place where they could find out where they came from. That party has been going on ever since, for forty years.
NC Room, Phase 1…Anne Corrrell, the founding mother…
NC Room, Phase II…Jerry Carroll…
NC Room, Phase III…Billy King…
Join the latest version of that party here: