photograph by Jerry Wolford & Scott Muthersbaugh

Since becoming chairwoman of the North Carolina Pickle Festival in Mount Olive 23 years ago, Julie Beck has watched attendance grow from 8,000 to 40,000 — “almost 10 times the population of Mount Olive,” she says. Visitors come from all over to participate in a Pickle Treasure Hunt; compete in a Pickle Packing Production Challenge; ride a train made of pickle barrels; eat fried pickles, pickle popcorn, and pickle snow cones; and, if you’re a cyclist on the 25-, 53-, or 75-mile Tour de Pickle, drink pickle juice for energy.

At 54, Beck has visited 85 countries and all 50 states, and her travel experiences are often reflected in her festival themes: A trip to Estonia, with its medieval history, translated to jousting pickles on the 2017 festival logo; her many visits to Germany inspired this year’s theme: Oktpicklefest.  

North Carolina Pickle Festival
Downtown Mount Olive on April 28, 2018
(919) 658-3113

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.