On Saturday October 4th and Sunday October the National Weather Service in Wilmington, NC attended the 30th Annual Riverfest celebration in downtown Wilmington. We were one of over 150 craft vendors that were set up on Water Street. It was estimated that over 150,000 people attended Riverfest over the course of the weekend.
Our booth location was different than in years past as we were directly on Water Street at the corner of Princess Street. This more visible location along with picture-perfect weather kept our booth busy. In our booth we had a display up on recent hurricanes to hit the Cape Fear area along with information on the Myrtle Beach Tornado of 2001. We handed our brochures on hurricanes, flooding, rip currents, and safe boating to name a few. A few new items, such as the "Turn Around Don't Drown" magnet and the new NOAA Weather Radio brochure were very popular. In fact the kids loved the Owlie Skywarn coloring book so much that we ran out by midday Sunday!By far the biggest attraction to our booth was the debut of our Tornado Machine. The idea came from meteorologist Stephen Keebler who saw a design for the machine from our partners at the National Weather Service in Huntsville, AL. Stephen was instrumental in getting this project started by acquiring the PVC pipe and the fogger for the tornado. Stephen put this project in motion over the last few years. (ET) Electronics Technician David Black began to work on the tornado last spring and was helped throughout the summer by his neighbor. (ITO) Information Technology Officer Carl Morgan and (ET) Electronics Technician Ivan Gonzales helped to put the finishing touches on the tornado just prior to Riverfest. We will have more on the making of this tornado in the coming weeks
The goal of the tornado machine was to attract people to our booth that otherwise would have never stopped by. At large events it was always hard to compete with funnel cakes and food. Through the use of the tornado, young and old stopped by to check it out. A couple in their 20s stopped by the booth because the tornado caught their eye. After a few minutes they left with brochures on flooding, rip currents, and a cloud chart. This machine enabled thousands of people to receieve free life saving information on weather because it presuaded them to visit our booth.
In addition to the tornado machine and free brochures, anybody that stopped by our booth could sign up for a free raffle. We raffled off a total of 4 rain gauges and 20 mini-tornadoes. 162 people signed up for the raffle with drawings twice on Saturday and again on Sunday. For those that could not be present at the drawings, we are now in the process of making sure everyone receives their prize.
A special thanks goes out to Ann Kirby who is on the board of directors for Riverfest. She made sure that we had a great location on Water Street and more importantly, she made sure we had power for our tornado machine! Thanks Ann.