Monday, March 09, 2009

The slipping away of the small town festival

There is no better indicator that times are bad then when a small South Carolina town cancels is annual festival. South Carolinians love a good festival in their towns.

There are too many to name, but a few stand out. During the spring and summer, there are festivals like the Poultry Festival in Batesburg-Leesville or the Gilbert Peach Festival. The late Senator Storm Thurmond rode his horse in the latter once. There is the frog jumping contest in Springfield and Hillbilly Days up in Mountain Rest. Then there is Belton’s Standpipe Festival. When the fall comes, there are festivals such as Wagons to Wagner which used to bring in hundreds of campers to the little town. Even Honea Path has its Fall Festival, complete with a honey soppin’ contest.

The most famous of the fall festivals has to be the Chitlin’ Strut in Salley. Traditionally held on the weekend after Thanksgiving, because frankly, it is just wrong to prepare chitlins when it is hot, the Chitlin’ Strut has been one of South Carolina’s little cultural gems, complete with a parade featuring Santa Claus. (For those who you do not know, chitlins are hog intestines which are boiled and then fried to eat.)

Once on the list was the Maize Days festival in Santee. Count that festival off for this year. According The State and The Times and Democrat, the town of Santee canceled the festival, and in a true sign of the times, is considering a town wide yard sale instead.

Perhaps it is a larger sign of the times that such local festivals are struggling to survive. In the age of instant entertainment, it is no longer a big deal to have a small carnival come to a small town and to have locals try to make a buck on their cooking and crafts. There is no thrill in seeing some small time act or ex big time act come perform when one can download every song they ever performed.

Such festivals were also political. At one point in South Carolina’s history, a politician ignoring them did so at his own political peril. As recent as the late 1990s, such festivals were a chance for people to actually meet statewide candidate office seekers of all stripes.

Perhaps the move by the town of Santee is a sign of where things are headed in South Carolina. Perhaps such festivals will now only be a source of memories. As a child, the “Honey Soppin,” in Honea Path was a big deal. I rode a Ferris wheel, albeit a small one, for the first time at one. I saw Porter Wagner stumble through his concert, which now I would judge him as pretty drunk. I got to camp at Wagons to Wagner. I did not know what a chitlin’ was but was pretty happy to go with my parents to the Chitlin’ Strut. As a young adult in 1994 working for the Bob Peeler for Lt. Governor Campaign, I got my first really big dose of retail politics helping throw out candy along side the famous Peeler Cow in the Gilbert Peach Festival Parade. I also got a dose that day of South Carolina humility. I was proud of the Peeler Cow, and bragged on it to one of my great aunts, who simply remarked she was there to hear the gospel singing.

On this blog and beyond, I advocate governments funding first things first, so I have no problem with Santee canceling their festival on that level. I understand. However, forgive me for taking a moment to lament the slipping away one of the better things about South Carolina culture, the small town festival.


  1. Brian, this one was pretty good. Reminded me of Lewis Grizzard.

  2. You rode a Ferris wheel in Honea Path. Wow. You saw a country music star drunk in Honea Path. Wow. He would have to be drunk to be there. Cindy will crush you.

  3. Brian, I really enjoyed this article of yours. It reminded me of my own youth. For me, it was the Ware Shoals Catfish Festival. I kept hoping that blue eyed girl in home room who is now my wife would hang out with me at it. Thanks for this and for what you wrote about our son's football team.

  4. Buhdda's Wisdom WorksMarch 11, 2009

    Cindy Fan, I have read this comment and others by you and I sense you are in some real pain. Let the pain go and embrace forgiveness. Also, say on this and other blogs what you would say to a man or woman's face.

    I normally have no comment on this blog, but just read it. But, I feel sorry for you Cindy Fan. There is a great pain in you. There is some hole in you. When you show such venom over some guy writing about his childhood experiences, it shows the pain and anguish you are in.

    Get help somewhere. For me, it was the Zen philosophy. Whatever it is for you, get it. You are lost in pain.

  5. working momMarch 11, 2009

    I would not call Brian McCarty another Lewis Grizzard. I would call him another political William Money from the movie Unforgiven.

    That SOB is ruthless. He caused my family and my dear friend Bill great harm with his ruthlessness. Just ask around.

    Put a few drinks in McCarty, and he becomes a political animal. That code McCarty claims to live by hurts people who are just trying to make a buck through their service.

    I hate the guy. So does his ex-friend Bill. Just ask around. Brian McCarty is no Lewis Grizzard. Despite all of his crap about standing up for Honea Path and other little towns, Brian McCarty is a ruthless political hack who destroys political careers at his own whims. In the old west, McCarty would be a gun for hire. Beware of him and his damn sense of honor. I could say much more, but I don't have time to.

  6. Working Mom, I gave you a forum, so say more. Comparing me to William Money in Unforgiven? You gotta be kidding. Are you saying I will go ruthless on someone who beats and tortures my friend unjustly? If so, you bet, at least politically.

    As for your references to Bill, I assume you mean Bill McAbee. I did not lift one finger against Bill last year. Bill's defeat was all his own.

    Indeed, how nuts are you? I am getting my political ass kicked locally for NOT supporting the current council on its investigation into the past.

    Frankly, I think all involved have issues, and those issues do not involve the people of Anderson County.

    I am generous in letting comments go up, because I believe in everyone having a say. But, please, how do your remarks and Cindy Fan's relate to what I actually wrote?

    The two of you are making me think of having a nutcase comments posting every week and posting your remarks there.

    Nevertheless, thanks for reading and commenting.