Caswell County native and local business owner David Carter summed up the 38th Bright Leaf Hoedown with a simple, yet perfect phrase:
“Unity in the community, tweet that,” Carter said, laughing.
While Carter issued the statement in jest, he wasn’t joking in fact as small-town, friendly vibes flowed freely at the annual event Saturday on Yanceyville’s historic Town Square.
Carter and his wife, Jennifer, along with their 17-year-old son Jackson, have been operating Sunflower Salvage, LLC, for the past three years. In that time, the family has made one-of-a-kind products, including baskets, Christmas Trees and barstools, made out of repurposed tobacco plants and equipment used in its harvesting and production.
David and Jennifer — who will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary in December — were quite busy at Saturday’s Hoedown, showing off their wares.
“Normally, on the way to a show, we’ll grab a biscuit and have at least an hour to eat it, but I couldn’t even get started on it today because things were happening so quickly, said Jennifer, laughing.
“It’s had a really good feel about it. A real sense of community. Everybody’s been raving about it and to see it kind of restored back. It’s great to have opportunities to have the community together and support local artists. Support local vendors. Dancing. The music’s amazing.”
The Carter’s have made quite the name for themselves of the past three years and their reputation preceded them on Saturday.
“A lot of people have been telling us they follow us on Facebook and Instagram and are so excited we’re here,” Jennifer said. “They’re telling us they’re glad to be able to go to one of our shows and see our stuff and they’ve been so complimentary.”
“It’s a confirmation after many days and nights of working hard in my workshop, having some issues with my tools,” David said, showing a cut on his hand, “and problems with my tools and blisters on my fingers.”
According to the Carter’s, the hot sellers have been their Christmas Trees made of tobacco stems and their lanterns made of tobacco burners.
“Our Christmas Trees made out of tobacco sticks have been No. 1,” Jennifer said.
David added, “A lot of the people love the barstools I made and the benches with tobacco warmers and they’ve loved the tractor seats.”
David’s Caswell County tobacco roots grow deep. His grandfather and great-grandfather were two of the biggest tobacco farmers in the county and members of the family still carry the tradition on today. While David doesn’t grow the plant directly, his involvement with Sunflower Salvage, LLC, helps him stay within the family tradition.
“It’s been a really good show and it kind of gives me a surreal feeling to be here in the Bright Leaf Hoedown festival,” David said. “To celebrate the heritage and then have some actual tobacco, original materials, like these tobacco burners that were used in the 1940s, it’s been surreal.”
Festival attendees were heard throughout the Town Square commenting on how the Hoedown had return to its original glory. Jennifer was one of those people.
“We did the Hoedown here a couple of years ago and it was okay, but it wasn’t what this was,” Jennifer said. “But it’s been surreal marrying into this and I remember I used to beg him to bring me to these and we would go and I would buy from a couple of vendors and to now be selling, if you would have told me 22 years ago that I would’ve been here selling, I never would’ve believed it.”
As for business operations?
“She works magic,” David said. “She’s like that Charlie Brown Christmas when they’re waving over that tree that’s kind of messed up and the branches were weeping. If you had seen her this morning, all of this stuff was out from the trailer. It was a hot mess.”
“I’m seeing her moving and moving and it’s a great honor. She works magic.”
“None of this would happen if he didn’t make it,” Jennifer concluded.