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Southern Rail festival continues celebration of Carrboro’s centennial

Jeff and June Gray celebrate Southern Year's 100 years by listening to the Big Fat Gap band featuring Mandolin Orange on Sunday night.

Although Carrboro officially turned 100 in March, the party didn’t stop then — Southern Rail continued the celebration of the town’s centennial this weekend.

Sunday’s festival emphasized the community and people of Carrboro, with performances from local bands and the sale of antiques and handmade crafts by local vendors.

“The town of Carrboro did a celebration closer to the actual time,” said Anna Mangiardi, the marketing manager at Southern Rail. “We basically want to host an event while it’s still going on.”

Mangiardi said the festival celebrated Carrboro’s growth from its humble beginnings centered on a railroad station and a cotton mill to a diverse community.

The town was incorporated in March of 1911 and was later renamed Carrboro after the mill owner, Julian Carr. Carr had bought the mill in 1909.

The mill closed down in the late 1960s, but the Carrboro community has stayed true to its roots, preserving the mill and renovating it to create Carr Mill Mall. The mall is beside Southern Rail, where the festival was held.

Many of the people attending the festival said they felt a strong connection to the town and its history.

Caroline Frantz said she came to the celebration to see her sister play with Big Fat Gap, a North Carolina band. She grew up in Carrboro and recalled many fond days spent on Weaver Street.

“It’s a slow-paced lifestyle that I like,” she said.

The festival’s play area, which included hula-hoops and jump ropes, drew families, including Chapel Hill resident Brooke Conklin and her 5-year-old son.

Conklin said her favorite Carrboro memory happened one Christmas morning three years ago, when she and her son were near Southern Rail and a train came through — much to the delight of her son, who was fascinated with trains at the time.

The festival also highlighted Carrboro’s vibrant arts scene, which has attracted many to the town, including Matthew Lewis, who attended the event to see his friends perform. Lewis is visiting from the United Kingdom to participate in music festivals across the United States.

“I’ve been here before, recording some drums at a studio,” he said.

Mangiardi said elements like the arts and the Weaver Street co-op have shaped Carrboro into a unique Southern town.

“I love the fact that for such a small town in North Carolina, it’s such an open-minded place,” she said. “You can be anyone you want here.”

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