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Fired up for The Cove

By Neill Caldwell -

WALNUT COVE — “I’m missing a Duke basketball home game for this!” Gene Banks fairly hollered at the crowd. “And I had tickets! But I wanted to be with you here in Walnut Cove!”

Oh, the sacrifices that are made to bring people together.

The jolly blue emcee, the former Duke legend, exhorted the crowd who had filled up the Southeastern Middle School gym last Saturday for the Gymnastics Show Talent Expo, the first such try to turn back the hands of time and recreate something that was a community staple from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s.

Banks, a good friend of the new mayor, Nellie Brown, was the star power that attracted some, but most were there for a healthy dose of community spirit.

Big things are happening,” he said, while not avoiding the problems that most small towns have these days, including drug use, joblessness, racism. “It’s going to be all right!”

In the show there was a little bit of everything: SMS cheerleaders provided the closest thing to gymnastics, and the school’s Drama Club offered a short Christmas play. There was line dancing, Irish dancing, a choir, even a flash mob.

Banks, the former ACC and NBA star, signed autographs for about an hour before the show. Even for Carolina fans. And when a technical glich caused a momentary lull, Banks proved he could sing a little bit as well.

I was so happy with how the event turned out,” said organizer Caroline Armijo, director of The Lilies Project. “I think that it was very positive and everyone had a lot of fun. That was my goal — to have fun together and build community. As with all of my programming, I wanted to highlight the excellence of Stokes County. I believe these shows were excellence at its best. An example of how collaborating together results in innovation. Certainly Jane and Rick Williams were the visionaries behind the program and many lives have been touched as a result of their decades long and ongoing service to the community.”

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