Cypress Grill and the Jamesville Herring Festival

 

The small town of Jamesville, NC still celebrates spring with a Herring Festival on Easter Monday. A parade, complete with floats, a band, and the crowned Herring Festival Queen kicks off the festivities

About the Herring

Through the centuries blueback herring, also known as river herring, have found their way from the Atlantic Ocean, through rivers, creeks and canals to spawn in the lakes and the sounds of coastal North Carolina. Those that survive return to the sea, the young fish wait until the following fall to make their exodus to the Atlantic Ocean.

The tradition of spring herring fishing goes back long before the first European settlers arrived on the shores of the Carolina Coast. American Indians fished the coastal waters for thousands of years before their arrival. The native fishermen taught the newcomers how to make nets woven from plant materials, and how to use traps called weirs that are still incorporated by today's commercial herring fishermen. The bow and dip nets of ancient times are made from more modern materials, but follow the same pattern as those used by Indians long ago and many recreational fishermen still use them to catch herring. Some nets were simply a big chicken wire basket with a cord attached. When the fish swam into the net and the fisherman felt them bump he just yanked the net out of the water by the cord.

Folks Line Up at Cypress Grill of Fried Herring

Source

Cooking and Preserving Herring

Herrings were preserved in the old days by packing them in salt brine or pickling them in a vinegar and spice concoction. Before cooking the salted herring the fish must be soaked overnight in fresh water to take out the saltiness, changing the water at least twice. The fish are then rolled in meal and fried in hot lard. Herring have many fine bones and are eaten bones and all. Fresh herring are fried the same way, only after cleaning the fish the sides are notched every half an inch down the length to ensure the fish are cooked through and the bones can be eaten.

Recipe for Herring Roe and Scrambled Eggs.

Six strips bacon

1 8-ounce can Herring roe drained, or 1 cup chopped cooked fresh roe

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

Six eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Fry bacon, drain on paper towels, keep warm in oven. Pour off and reserve drippings. In same fryer, put 2 tablespoons bacon grease, add roe, salt and pepper. Brown slightly. Beat eggs. Add salt and pepper. Add 2 teaspoons bacon grease to browned roe, pour in eggs and mix scramble roe and eggs. Cook until eggs are partially done. Remove from heat, cover for a minute. Serve immediately topped with bacon. Serves 4 to 6.

(Recipes courtesy of Eddy Browning, food columnist for the Washington Daily News)

Fried Herring at Easter Monday Herring Festival

photo by Donna Campbell Smith
photo by Donna Campbell Smith | Source

Let the Festivities Begin

On Easter Monday in Jamesville the air is filled with the fragrance of fish frying in deep fat and the streets and riverfront are lined with vendors. Visitors and residents browse through an array of arts and crafts, while the kids beg for balloons and pony rides. And of course, you'll stand in a long line for a plate of hot, fried herrings with hushpuppies and slaw from the Cypress Grill.

Located on the banks of the Roanoke River, the herring was once an important source of income for this small community. A "fishing machine" was used to harvest the fish, which were then processed and salted for distribution. No longer an industry in that sense, the festival brings large crowds to Jamesville, population 612, on that one day a year.

The Cypress Grill, which is open only during the spring herring season, draws folks from miles around to enjoy the delicacies. Situated directly on the riverbank, fishermen catch the herrings with nets, which they pull with boats. The fish are brought onto the riverbank, cleaned, carried into the kitchen and cooked. You can't get any fresher than that.

2014 is 65th NC Herring Festival

The NC herring Festival in Jamesville, NC, which will be held April 18-19, 2014, draws hundreds of people to the banks of the Roanoke River and downtown streets on Friday and Saturday night prior to Easter Sunday.

Friday night features live music and a street dance. Saturday starts off with a pancake breakfast, the 5K Herring Run, an Egg Hunt, another street dance and fireworks. Vendors will be there selling arts and crafts and food throughout the weekend. There will be an Easter Sunrise service Sunday morning,

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Comments 12 comments

Lynne 6 years ago

Oh how I miss fried herring and rockfish stew and the Cypress grill. Folks in the Piedmont where I live now have no idea what a true "fish camp" is.

I was sad to hear that the herring no longer "run" in the Roanoke and Cashie the spring.


NC Herring Festival Committee 6 years ago

For anyone interested in being a vendor or a pataron of the NC Herring Festival, plans have started for 2010. We are taking vendor information to get out vendor packets, and the festivities will be similar to last year. We will soon have an update to the ncherringfestival.com website coming soon, but the contract information is still the same for anyone interested!! Hope to see ya there.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Dineane, remember a few years ago there were dolphins or porpoises in the river at the paper mill?


NC Herring Festival Committee 7 years ago

Hey, have new info. We now have an OFFICIAL website w/ the calander of events. It just opened today, WWW.NCHERRINGFESTIVAL.COM. The times are pretty much correct, but there are a couple that is off the mark. The corrections hopefully will be made tommorrow. The contact phone number and email is in the bottom corner. Sharon Britt. If you want to have a spot, please call her ASAP, she wants to do the vendor setup map this weekend. We have our next meeting Monday, and she wants to have it finished by then. You can tell her how you are getting the info, and let her know why you are late asking for the paperwork. The cut off is supposed to be April 3rd. Sorry I didn't have anything new, so I haven't logged on to your site until tonight. Thanks for the interest, and hope that you can particapate.

Karen


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Can you give us contact information? Might be interested in vendor space, etc.


New Herring Festival Committee 7 years ago

I just wanted to let u know that the Parade time has been changed to a tentative time @ this time. I will try to up date the scheduled time after it has be but in concrete. Hope u can make it.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Thank you so much for that update! I will put it on my calendar.


New Herring Fest Committee 7 years ago

2 those of u that r checking this page out, the have been so fresh new updates 2 the Herring Festival this year. It starts Friday nite w/ a street dance & carnival rides. Saturday there will be all kinds of stuff going on. 9-5 (give or take) Carnival rides, Easter egg hunt @ 11am with pics w/ Easter Bunny for the kids. Classic Car cruz-in,Parade @ 1. Live entertainment throughout the day. New vendor setup, Baseball tournaments throughout the day. Sunday, sunrise service @ the Jamesville Cemetary, and fireworks & gospel singing @ dark. April 10-12, 2009. Spread the word. We are trying 2 renew the life of the Festival by changing things around. Any ?'s call town hall n Jamesville. Hope 2 have a website next year.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Hey, Jamie! You should write some stories, too. I know you have lots of them.


JAMIE LYNN 7 years ago

Yup we even had i Manatee behind the mill back during the summer the porpoises are in the sound a lotin the summer the water is getting very brackish !!! I'm really enjoying your and Dineane's hubs Donna!!!


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

I remember seeing pictures of them behind the paper mill a couple of years ago.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina

One of these days I'll make it to Jamesville for the Herring Festival. On a side note, Daddy said one of his neighbors saw porpoises in the river behind his house (in Jamesville) last week! I've never heard of them coming so far up the river.

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