Lynn Williams, a spokesperson for the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, stands behind a two-and-a-half gallon jar of tightly packed pickles at her company’s booth at the North Carolina State Fair. A couple of kids wander up and swap guesses with each other over the number of pickles the jar contains. “It’s fun to watch,” says Williams. “You can always tell the engineers. They try to work out an equation.”
Behind the pickle puzzle, Williams is one of the few folks near the jar who appears confident. That is, until I ask her how long Mt. Olive has held a spot at the fair. “We’re not sure,” she says, then adds, “Well, our president emeritus remembers checking on the pickles here during Hurricane Hazel, so we were here then.” Hazel hit the east coast during the fall of 1954.
Williams has more concrete information when it comes to the 1960s. Then, Jaycees from the Mount Olive community manned the pickle booth and stayed in Raleigh for fun. Williams’ father, Paul Pearsall, was among the club members who worked the fair during that time. “They had too much fun,” she laughs. “The company had to start sending its own employees.” Thus today, six different workers are brought from Mt. Olive each day of the festivities. Of that scheduling, Williams explains, fairgoers get to see the people who make their pickles, and “employees get to see the folks who are crazy about them.”
At the fair, Mt. Olive sells five different varieties of pickles—sour, sweet gherkin, dill, hot and sour kosher dill, and kosher dill—for fifty cents apiece. According to Williams, kosher dills sell the best. She anticipates that company will go through at least five to six palettes of just that one variety alone during the fair. Try to guess how many pickles that entails.