(2011 Courier file photos by David Hill)
(2011 Courier file photos by David Hill)
An annual festival returns to Carroll County's Courthouse square this weekend to celebrate the area's agricultural and farming heritage.

The 62nd Carroll County Tobacco Festival will feature carnival rides, music, a flea market and live bands during the three-day festival that begins Thursday. Event organizer Charlotte Snow said several of the events remain the same as previous years, such as the annual parade, Sing-Off competition and Firefighter's Bucket Brigade. But there are some new additions as well.

NASCAR driver Derrike Cope will serve as the grand marshal of the parade on Saturday, Snow said. Cope, best known for his 1990 Daytona 500 win over Dale Earnhardt, continues to race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Cope will be available after the parade to meet with fans near McNeal's Hardware Store. Cope's car will be on display during Saturday's events as well.

The parade usually has about 150 to 200 entries, Snow said, and she doesn't expect this year to be any different.

"Hopefully we'll have more floats this year," she said.

The parade will begin at 1 p.m. from the Carroll County High School parking lot before traveling down Park Avenue to Highland Avenue then to Main Street. Snow expects the parade to last about 90 minutes.

Another event returning to the festival will be the Sing-Off, at 6 p.m. today.

Snow said participants may sign up for the competition at a table until 5:30 p.m., which will be located in front of the stage area. The entry fee is $20, and singers will be divided into two categories, one for participants ages 17 and younger and another for ages 18 and older.

"There's really not any specifications," Snow said. "They just have to sing one song and bring their own music."

Judges will award prizes to the top three winners in each category.

A 4-H tent will be a new addition to the festival this year. Instead of featuring an ag-tourism tent, the 4-H group requested space at the event.

"They're all excited about it," Snow said.

Organization tents will be located on the Courthouse square with other entertainment stages and carnival rides located nearby.

The Carroll County Tobacco Festival pageant winners also will help to celebrate the festivities. They were crowned prior to the festival. Courtney Powell was crowned Miss Tobacco Festival with Leslie Whaley crowned Miss Teen Tobacco Festival. Shelby Alicea was crowned Miss Pre-Teen Tobacco Festival and Samirah Ndiaye was crowned Junior Miss Tobacco Festival.

Jayden Bond won the Little Miss Tobacco Festival pageant and LJ Hearn won Little Mister Tobacco Festival.