Hopeful Fayetteville rings in 2016 with good-luck meal

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A New Year's good luck tradition in Fayetteville.

Lee Warren roamed the Crown Complex reaching into his pocket. One by one he'd hand out a little button that most people enjoying their New Year's Day meal would attach to their sweaters.

The button has a picture of long-time Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis, who passed away in October at the age of 72. Most people attending the annual goodwill luncheon knew Grannis.

His family is one-third of the group behind the huge event.

"He was one of my best friends," said former Fayetteville attorney Willis Brown. "We were adversaries in the court system for many, many years. But he was a gentleman. He was a good prosecutor, but he was fair."

For the past 22 years, the Grannis, Warren and West families have hosted the Black-Eyed Peas luncheon. They picked it up after the tradition that former Sheriff Ottis Jones and Brown started in 1970. The peas represent prosperity and collard greens represent hopes of financial security.

"Where else but in the South can you listen to Gospel music, eat collard and black-eyed peas on a New Year's Day?" asked attendee Shirley Hartness. "Happy New Year's! That's as good as it gets!"

"It's first cousin to church," Brown laughed.

Serious matters were discussed, too.

During the luncheon, local leaders were asked to weigh in on their expectations for the new year. On the military front, retired four-star Army Gen. Dan McNeill said he realizes the fight against ISIS is unprecedented. He said he has incredible faith and confidence in local military leaders, but he doesn't discount boots on the ground in the near future.

"I cannot see how we can't have people forward involved in this," McNeill said. "If we leave it (ISIS) to its own designs, it is in my opinion that it will be a considerable threat to the American homeland."

In Fayetteville, an ambitious parks bond is on the table. Local leaders realize there are optimistic and skeptical voters, who offering differing opinions on the project.

"That doesn't mean a tax increase," said Fayetteville mayor Nat Robertson, speaking on the package. "But that does mean we've got to look at certain areas we're going to be able to cut to fund things."

"It's going to be a fun 2016," Robertson added. "2016 is going to be very good for our community."

No matter your concern or interest in the new year, most had a common hope as they ate their black-eyed peas for prosperity and collard greens for hopes of financial security.

"We're looking for and having the expectation of overflow in 2016," Fayetteville resident Mary Whitfield said.

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