Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fort Sumter An Unlikely Set Of Circumstances

If you enjoy reading Civil War History as much as I do, you have probably read a ton of material about the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. I have always maintained that Charleston is like a museum of living history and recently in commemoration of the Sesquecentenial of the Civil War Charleston has literally come alive with Civil War History. In fact, last week on the exact day at the exact time of day 150 years later, the sounds of explosions and cannon shots echoed throughout the Holy City and just like that early morning 150 years ago residents poured into the streets and onto rooftops csurrounding the Battery to witness the bombardment.

The circumstances and even the key character figures surrounding the theatre of Fort Sumter represent an unlikely combination to lead to the flash point of a conflict that divided America. First off, the fortification itself was not a particularly strategic piece of real estate. There were scores of more strategic locations to fight over than the citadel that guarded the opening to the Charleston Harbor. Beyond the lack of strategic importance, the key players in the developing conflict were unlikely adversaries. On the Confederate side was General Pierre G.T. Beauregard commanding the defenses of the Charleston Harbor, and the Federal Commander inside of Fort Sumter was Major Robert Anderson the Kentucky Native who was Beauregards artillery instructor at West Point, a lifelong Army man whose heart was simply not in the war. When Beauregard who was following orders of the Confederate Leaders in Montgomery, Alabama sent a dispatch to Major Anderson calling for the Federals to promptly surrender the fort, Major Anderson received the note and responded with a heavy heart that "it was a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obigations to my government, prevent my compliance." What consternation General Beauregard must have felt when he received the response and realized that in the absence of compliance he would be forced to carry out a bombardment of Fort Sumter and the forces lead by his former instructor.

When the Confederate authorities directed General Beauregard to issue the ultimatum to Major Anderson they did so out of having their hands forced by the announcement from President Lincoln that he intended to re-supply the Federal garrison with food and other provisions. The Confederates would either have to fire the first shots of the war, or back down from their previous threats. Both leaders, Lincoln and Davis knew that the shots would undoubtedly lead to a bloody conflict. And indeed it did, the attack of the Federal troops at Fort Sumter generated lots of Northern support and sympathy while energizing scores of Confederates who were confident of a quick and decisive victory.

Within the Battle of Fort Sumter, there were unlikely circumstances that lead to the first fatality of the Civil War. Following the initial bombardment of the fort that resulted in a Federal surrender of Sumter, there were no casualties. During a Union ceremony firing a fifty gun salute to the United States Flag that was being retired from the fort an explosion occurred, leading to the death of one Union Soldier and injuring five others. And so it began, a conflict that would tear a Nation apart, a conflict where cousins would fight against cousins and events and occurrences that would impact and change the history and life within the Confederacy and the Union.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Flags Flying Over Fort Sumter

Since becoming a resident of the Lowcountry I have visited Fort Sumter a handful of times and I usually fix my eyes upon the Fort at the far end of Charleston Harbor nearly every time I walk along the harbor front. One of the most memorable images that I have taken with me on my observations of the fortress are the 6 flags waving gallantly in the stiff breeze of the Atlantic Ocean, symbols of the historic significance of the fort and a tribute to the many men who fought to defend or claim her for their respective side.

The current 6 banners displayed at the fort have flown in unison since 1970 and represent a timeline if you will of the occupation of the fortress in the middle of the Charleston Harbor. Within that timeline one can begin to understand the complexity of the history of the famous redoubt. On April 12, 1861 when the recently commemorated inaugural shots of the Civil War were fired upon the Federally Occupied Fort Sumter, the 33-star Flag of the United States of America stood watch over the fortress. Shortly thereafter when the confederates claimed the fort on April 14, 1861 the banner of the Palmetto Guard was raised on the flag pole above the citadel. The first National Flag of the Confederacy, The Stars and Bars with 7 stars signifying the seven Confederate States of America was proudly displayed from 1861-1863. In 1863 the Stars and Bars was replaced by the second National Flag of the Confederacy, the Stainless Banner, adorned with 13 stars representing the 11 seceeded states as well as Kentucky and Missouri who had not seceeded but were recognized as Confederate States. And then in 1865 the National Banner of The United States of America now with 35 stars since two states, West Virginia and Kansas, were now part of the Nation. Today, the Flag of The United States of America and the familiar Flag of The State of South Carolina are displayed along with the other four standards creating a highly recognizable monument visible from the shores of Charleston Harbor. Throughout the Civil War Fort Sumter represented both victory and defeat to both armies and today, one-hundred and fifty years later the citadel in the harbor represents a living museum of history to the thousands of visitors who tour the fort each year.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fresh Strawberries, It's Whats For Breakfast

Happy Easter Everybody, I hope you are having a blessed Easter. Since it is Easter Sunday I have a fun post for you today. It is Strawberry Season in the Lowcountry and my goal is to have fresh local berries in the fridge at all times throughout the season. We are fortunate to have a pick-your-own field located within a mile of the house. Recently we had guests from West Virginia and of course one of the many "Vacationland" activities for the week was a trip to the berry patch. While I am tempted to say that half of the fun was harvesting the delectably sweet red morsels of deliciousness, that is really not true, because that would only leave half of the fun for eating them, and that would be a gross understatement of fact. The fact is, eating them is really most of the fun. That is probably why I also never pass up the chance to buy pre-picked local berries at the Summerville Farmers Market.

The morning after our visit to the berry patch, the daughter of our guests, Jensen, was treated to an AWESOME Belgian Waffle with fresh berries and whipped cream. Judging by the smile on Jensen's face, I think she enjoyed the treat, what do you think?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Passing It On

One of the awesome things about being a father are the opportunities to teach and share your know how with the progeny. This Good Friday evening has provided just that circumstance. My oldest son JD returned to the Lowcountry today for a short Easter respite and an interview for his summer job. Accordingly, I decided that in lieu of dinner out on the town, we would fix some baked lasagna. So out to the kitchen herb garden I went to collect a harvest of oregano, parsley and basil and then back to the cutting board to instruct JD on the duty of mincing fresh herbs. While JD prepped the herbs, I grated some fresh Parmessan Cheese to use in the cheese layer of the lasagna.
There is just something very special about being in the kitchen with your oldest son teaching him to make what has become one of the favorite family recipes. While the Ipod entertained us with Harry Connick Jr., Dean Martin and Sinatra our culinary creativity was inspired with a Cabernet from the Western Cape of South Africa (Lindemans 2006).

After JD had successfully assembled the lasagna our attention turned to the Caprese Salad, another family favorite. I love to experiment in the kitchen with ingredients and I have always been a big fan of my wifes spinach salad with strawberries. Since it is the middle of strawberry season here in the Lowcountry and this years harvest is sensationally sweet and delectable, I decided to add a little something special to top off the Caprese. I figured the sweetness of the berries would be an excellent balance to the tartness of the balsamic vinegar and tomatoes and a compliment to the smokiness of the fresh mozzarella, and I was right.
The fresh basil from the kitchen herb garden added a mysterious complexity to a rather simple salad and the aroma of the italian casserole baking in the oven reminded us all that we would soon be elbow deep in cheese, noodles and meat.

Once the lasagna was served and enjoyed we realized that JD's lesson had been deliciously successful and I imagined that one day JD would hopefully have the opportunity to pass along to his son or daughter the art of baked lasagna as well. It was good to have JD back home if only for a night or two, and I am sure Noah is enjoying the break as well, since he got the night off from helping me in the kitchen and he had JD's assistance with the cleanup, because while Dad loves to cook he does create a little bit of a mess in the process.

If you are interested in the recipe we use for baked lasagna check out Charleston Receipts Repeats cookbook, it is available on Amazon. As for the Caprese, it is simple yet elegant. Use your favorite tomatoes, slice them about a half-inch thin. Use fresh mozzarello sliced likewise and layer the tomatoes and cheese on a dish. I sliced about 6 large strawberries very thin and layered them amongst the cheese and tomatoes. Snip fresh basil over the top and sprinkle sea salt according to your taste. To this, add some fresh ground pepper and garnish the top with several whole leaves of basil. Drizzle the salad with EVO (extra virgin olive oil) and finish it off with a good quality balsamic vinegar. Allow the salad to rest in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes and then serve, Buon Appetito.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I'm Such A Baby Cause The Dolphins Make Me Cry

Yesterday turns out to be one of those classic Lowcountry days that I love to blog about on From The Land of Palm Trees and what makes it even better is that I was able to share my day and my "easy livin'" with friends. I began the day at the beach on the Isle of Palms along with thousands of other fans of the sandy shore. The beaches of Charleston experienced record crowds yesterday due to vacations and spring breaks leading up to Easter this week. While the water was way too cold for swimming, at least for me but seemingly not for the hundreds of people that I watched splashing about, the sunshine was abundant and the aforementioned 65 degree water provided for a nice refreshing breeze that made the 86 degree sunny day seem just perfect for sitting in the sun. A perfect set of conditions for a monster sunburn, as my youngest son now realizes.

What better way to cap off a day at the beach than to go out for some great local seafood? And accordingly, what better place to go for great Seafood than Bowen's Island Restaraunt? Once again, the bonus is getting to share it first hand with friends visiting "vacation-land". I am sure they had no idea what they were getting into as we navigated Bowen's Island Road and passed the sign that says "County Maintenance Ends Here."
But any anxieties were soon relieved by a breathtaking Bowen's Island sunset from the third level deck high above the creek and a cold beer to go along with the view. Amidst the chatter of old friends catching up and teenagers pranking a little brother by mass texting their friends with the little brothers cell phone number a calm peace came over me as I gazed out over the expanse of the salt marsh and the tidal creek passing the weathered docks of Bowen's Island Restaurant, and then it happened, right across the creek from our dining spot, the subtle wave circle on the creek gave it away, then the familiar surfacing of two dolphins playing and feeding at the edge of the creek. These beautiful and wondrous creatures are so entertaining to me. To say that I am intrigued by their activities and behavior would be an understatement. Perhaps Darius Rucker and his Hootie and The Blowfish bandmates say it best, "I'm Such A Baby Yeah The Dolphins Make Me Cry." In all seriousness though, for me, there are few things I enjoy any more than spotting dolphins in the surf at the sea shore or cruising a tidal creek, and living in the Lowcountry provides ample opportunities and experiences to witness these graceful creatures, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. As I stood and watched with my buddy Bruce, anticipating those fried oysters that were soon to be served up by the staff at Bowen's Island Restaraunt I realized that I had plenty to be thankful for since another classic Lowcountry Day was drawing to an end and I was once again reminded God had once again blessed me with good friends, a great family and the sensitivity that I can get so excited about seeing dolphins swim toward the Atlantic Ocean under the orange glow of a setting sun. Have a great day today wherever you might be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not Just Another Hot Dog Post

Two things that I enjoy doing have taken somewhat of a "hit" over the past month and a half due to my marathon work schedule last month and my recent bout with the dental infection from hell. Golfing and blogging opportunities have sort of been few and far between. That has resulted in me missing more putts than normal and has also resulted in a case of "writers block". The main focus of From The Land of Palm Trees is to chronicle day to day life in the Lowcountry, but recently my day to day has been survival and ibuprofen, but things are looking up. When I picked my son up at school yesterday I asked what he wanted for supper and without hesitation he said ""P-Dogs". Perfectly Frank's in Summerville, formerly and originally known as P Dogs is a classic gourmet hot dog spot that recently relocated into a much larger space allowing them to greatly enhance their gastronomical offerings and Perfectly Frank's happened to be Noah's choice for supper. However, with the chance of a rare quiet evening at home absent of high school baseball eating out didn't look like it was the best option, so I asked him what is his favorite P Dogs hot dog, to which he quickly replied, "the one with the Mac and Cheese on top."

So for dinner I grilled some hot dogs and toppedg them not with "hot dog sauce" but, you got it, Macaroni and Cheese. Well, in reality, not all of the hot dogs were adorned with the cheesy pasta condiment, just Noah's. My hot dogs were dressed with the finest in southern pimento cheese, Palmetto Cheese in fact, and some good old Barbecue shredded pork. My wife had requested her favorite, KETCHUP.

Noah said that the impersonated home version inspired by the "Frank Morgan" at Perfectly Frank's was ok, but not quite as good as the innovator. Accordingly, I must pay homage to the shrine that is Perfectly Frank's, the Summerville eatery that prides itself as being "a something for everybody kind of joint" recently relocated from a cozy little nook on West Doty Avenue to a large storefront at 118 N. Main Street just North of the railroad tracks and the townsquare in Historic Summerville. With the move, PF's has morphed into a full blown gastronomical gallery of casual, yet sophisticated and definitely fun, southern cuisine. No, Perfectly Frank's is not your typical purveyor of sausages, after all how many hot dog stands have a culinary staff that includes an award winning chef such as Billy Condon of Atlanticville fame.

If it's gourmet hot dogs that you fancy, PF's offers an exhausting list of famous frankfurters. One of my favs is the "Franco Harris" for you Steelers Fans the sandwich is topped with chilli, onions, mustard, ketchup and french fries on the dog, not on the side. If that doesn't scream your name, how about the Elvis Frankie topped with melted peanut butter, grilled banannas, bacon and drizzled with honey. Now if you aren't tempted by Franco's immaculate reception or Elvis' swinging hips, maybe "Frank Sinatra" is more your speed, topped with blue cheese cole slaw. I bet old blue eyes would be proud of this one. But it doesn't end with coneys, there are also tacos, quesadillas and designer sammies like the bison burger. If you aren't in to caloric gluttony PF's offer some tempting and refreshing salads, including salmon and shrimp. But the piece de resistance is the section of the menu under the title of Chef Condons Creations. One creation catches my eye, it is Fried Green Tomatoe Napolean, a dish artfully constructed of three green tomatoes stuffed with homemade jalapeno pimento cheese and served on a bed of butter-beans and corn succotash with country cured ham.

Be sure not to leave PF's without catering to your sweet tooth, original tasty treats from Summerville Sweets are now available at Franks.

Perfectly Frank's is just another reason why the livin' is so easy in the Lowcountry. If you are a local, don't miss out on the indulgence of a meal at Perfectly Frank's, if you are not a local, well it's time for you to visit and while you're here, check it out, who knows, you just might decide to stay in The Land Of Palm Trees.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Morning Blog Trip Around The Lowcountry

This has been one of those mornings perfect for flipping open the laptop and doing a little blog perusing. An excellent opportunity not only to read the current published posts of the blogs that I follow, but also the chance to re-visit a couple posts of note from the past 3 months.

I have always been a fan of pimento cheese, from back in time when my Uncle Wilbur used to produce the best in the world in his meat market in Marlinton, West Virginia. I remember when Senator Robert C. Byrd used to drive out of his way just to join my Grandfather and Uncles at the big butcher block in the meat department for some pimento cheese sandwiches made on fresh Purity or Sunbeam Bread. Well since then, I have tried a lot of versions, some I love and some I will probably pass on the next time I am presented with the choice. One of my favorite blogs, Al Forno Charleston published an excellent piece on Pimento Cheese as "the new Southern Icon" back in February, check it out.

I mentioned yesterday that I was headed to the Summerville Community Farmers Market, which I did. I enjoyed renewing old acquaintances with the vendors from last year, as well as getting to know some of the new vendors. I was able to collect some wonderful fresh picked local strawberries yesterday as well as some local shrimp and fresh flounder which we enjoyed for dinner last night. I also picked up a salmon colored hibiscus for the front yard and a double pink Rose of Sharon for the ongoing landscape project in the back. But my friend and fellow West Virginian Lisa published a delicious post about her experience downtown in Marion Square at the Charleston Farmers Market yesterday in Charleston Treasures.

While you are at it cruising around Lowcountry Blogs, check out a couple others that I enjoyed this morning. As always, the other Doug at Doug's Photo Blog is noteworthy with a beautiful church photo this morning. And finally, don't miss the opportunity to check in with Olivia at Everday Musings and view some great dynamic shots of Charleston Scenery, while you're there, don't forget to take a look at her cake stand link and see some of the unique handcrafted cake stands that she produces.

Well, that pretty much sums up my Sunday Morning. I am happy that the antibiotics seem to finally be winning the battle against the periodontal abscess that has significantly whipped my butt this week. Just in time for back to work tomorrow evening. Thanks for joining me on my blog cruise around the Lowcountry, Enjoy. Have a great day wherever you are.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nothing Screams Potential Like A Saturday Morning

Good Morning from my front porch From The Land of Palm Trees. It's a beautiful Lowcountry morning and I am being treated to a cacophony of sound this morning with the various birds singing, the roosters from the farm next door to our neighborhood, and the occasional runner passing by my house. I wish there was some way to package the audio of this blog and share it with you, you can just tell it is going to be one of those days. My house is oriented to the Southeast, and the sky is glowing orange as old man Sol is on the rise.

I am anxiously awaiting my inaugural trip for the season to the Summerville Farmers Market this morning. (Check out this link to a feature on area Farmers Markets) Saturday mornings from April to November always include a jaunt around the market and it is fun to anticipate the coming harvest of local produce from week to week. Prime local strawberry season is here so I know I will bring home some great berries this morning, but I am really looking forward to taking Braxton, the son of our friends who will be visiting in 2 weeks to the local berry field for our own picking party.

Another huge event on the blotter for many today is the Joint Base Charleston (Joint Navy and Air Force Base) Air Expo. The Thunderbirds have been in town since Wednesday filling the Charleston sky with breathtaking antics and maneuvers, it has been quite a thrill to see them from various locations as we went about our Lowcountry lives this week. I watched a great simulated dogfight take place from the parking lot of Rick Hendrick Hyundai yesterday morning while we were new car shopping for my wife, and last evening while I worked in the yard, a group of 8 World War II era biplanes flew in formation overhead.

Beginning this weekend Civil War buffs will begin to see the culmination of a plethora of events marking the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War. There are lectures, museum exposes, movies under the stars in Marion Square, reenactments and many other things to commemorate the period. Check out this link for more if you are interested in the Civil War History that is plentiful in and around Charleston.

Of course, you may just be interested in a jaunt down to the shoreline with your beach chair and favorite book, it looks like a great couple of days to accomodate that fancy as well. A Saturday evening walk on the beach may be in our plans after a double header at the baseball field today. We will probably end our weekend with a drive down to Freshfields Village, located smack dab between the entrance to Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island for an afternoon of Blues at Blues by The Sea on Sunday.

I hope you have a GREAT weekend wherever you may be and thanks for stopping by From The Land of Palm Trees, hey right on cue, there goes the Thunderbirds screaming past my house now, what a place to live.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April In Augusta

My life as an avid golfer started the summer of 1967, I was five years old and my parents told me that I wore the bottoms out of three golf bags that summer by dragging the bag behind me because I was too short and scrawny to hoist it on my shoulder. As a child I was obsessed with golf, not only with playing the game, but also with designing new courses on paper and in my mind. I spent hours on the golf course near my house playing the course from alternate angles, inventing my own tees and sometimes even using parts of three different fairways from different holes to "design" an impossible par-five 680 yard hole. I played imaginary rounds in all of the majors, but the major that I was always most smitten by was, The Masters.

While other boys back in the day had pictures of Farrah Fawcett and Wonder Woman plastered on their bedroom walls, I had the cover and photo expose from Golf World Magazine, "April in Augusta" hanging beside my bed.

There was just something about The Masters. Maybe it was the time of the year, spring a time for renewal, a re-birth of golf weather in North Central West Virginia after 5 months of Winter. Maybe it was the hype, or maybe the extra emphasis placed on the tournament by the television network.

At any rate, I didn't really spend a lot of my time watching golf on television, I would much rather be out playing my own game, but during The Masters, all of that changed. That's just how The Masters is, it captivates you.

My early interest in April in Augusta, probably in some way accounts for me living as an adult in vacation land, because I always wished as a child that I could live and play someplace like Augusta, some place with all of those pine trees and azaleas and lush green grass.

I still haven't had the opportunity to attend any of the events of The Masters, although living this close to Augusta here in Charleston, I know and talk to a lot of folks who attend the classic golf tournament.

For now I will have to rely upon living vicariously through them, I will have to continue to use my imagination that tomorrows round is being played on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, and that my homemade pimento cheese sandwich is actually an Augusta National original. It's not as big of a stretch as it used to be, at least here I have the bermuda grass, the tall pine trees and accompanying pine straw and the azaleas. And that's just fine with me, after all, I've been doing it for years. Happy Friday wherever you may be.

NOTE: Thanks to my good friend Nathan who provided photos for todays blog post.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender Roasted Potatoes and Grilled Chicken

As you know, one of the true pleasures that I relish is gardening and my favorite section of the kitchen garden is the herb bed. This year the plot seems to be doing very well and I am always searching for new recipes and ideas to incorporate my bountiful herb harvest into dishes prepared for the family. Recently I decided to get creative with some lavender, a new addition to the herb gardent this year, and some wonderful new red potatoes that we picked up at the market. As is often the case when I start cooking, after a glass or two of Merlot or Pinot Noir, I tend to become very creative and even bold with the use of spices.

After chopping the lavender and enjoying its fragrant aroma, I decided that it would be complimented quite nicely by some rosemary and when I went to the garden to collect the rosemary, the German Thyme caught my eye. So off to the kitchen I went, herbs in hand and when I was finished chopping I had quite an aromatic mixture of herbs to use on my roasted red potatoes. If you are looking for an easy potatoe dish that especially compliments grilled chicken, beef or pork, try this recipe, I think you will agree, it is a keeper.

Begin by quartering your potatoes, leaving the skin intact. Place the quartered spuds into a large bowl leaving ample room to stir the potatoes in the next step.

Add some "EVO" (extra virgin olive oil) to the potatoes using enough oil so that the potatoes are well covered in oil. Then liberally sprinkle your chopped rosemary, thyme and lavendar on the potatoes. You might also add a couple of cloves of minced garlic as well, stirring the potatoes in order to coat the poatoes for roasting.

Next, transfer the potatoes into a large pyrex baking dish and roast them uncovered in the oven at 375 degrees. Prepare to experience a delightful aroma as the potatoes roast to perfection.

I was so inspired by the herb mixture, or at least by the wine, that I decided to use the same grouping of herbs to prepare a marinade for the grilled chicken. As you know by now, I cook alot with wine, and occasionally the wine ends up in the recipe I am preparing as well. As a matter of fact, for the grilled chicken, I did save some red wine to be used in the marinade along with the chopped herbs and minced garlic.
This day, I was grilling chicken legs and thighs so I placed the chicken into the same bowl used earlier for the potatoes, there was just the right amount of residual extra virgin olive oil remaining in the bowl to use as part of the marinade. I sprinkled the herbs on the chicken and then stirred in some red wine. I allowed this to marinade for a couple of hours before firing up the grill. The savory mixture of rosemary along with the thyme and lavender was excellent on the smoky grilled chicken, and thanks to the liquid marinade process, the chicken was very moist and flavorful after grilling.

The grilled chicken and roasted potatoes pair very well with a ceasar salad or even some fresh cole slaw. I hope you get the opportunity to try these two great recipes soon and that you enjoy the meal as much as we did. This is how we do it in The Land of Palm Trees, Bon Appetit!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

From The Land of Palm Trees: Cooper River Bridge Run

From The Land of Palm Trees: Cooper River Bridge Run

I originally published this post back in February. Reliving the excitement that I felt last year during my first year as a participant in the Bridge Run through my wife and our friends Lisa and Jeff Caplinger I decided to repost for you this morning. Hopefully I will get to participate in next years Cooper River Bridge Run.

Friday, April 1, 2011

From The Forest Festival to The Flowertown Festival

Picture in your mind, a village, perhaps a town or even a city, if you will, bustling with excited people. A mass of humanity gathered for an annual jollification. Hundreds of the people have made a pilgrimmage to the event, returning home from far off locations, various dots on the map. It is a homecoming of sorts. There are class and family reunions and backyard barbecues scheduled around the fete.

This scene which you envisage may be taking place in Urbana, Illinois, or Winchester, Virginia. Perhaps it is Elkins, West Virginia or maybe Summerville, South Carolina. The product of your imagination is a jubilant celebration or a festival. The focal point of the festival may be a pumpkin or watermelon harvest, maybe even a strawberry or tomatoe crop, or quite possibly a change of seasons.

The crowd is gathered and enjoying the conviviality that accompanies a festival. On display are old friends, new grandchildren, former teammates, you can see them all. "Well look, over there, is that old Coach Haney talking to Beau Jenkins? Didn't he win the state championship back in 1968? And look, over there by the flower shop isn't that? Yup, Betsy Pratt, the youngest daughter of Pastor Pratt. She married that Jones boy didn't she? Yes she did, they live up in New York City now, he works on Wall Street. And over there, that is ..." And so it goes on, the scenario plays out in towns all over the United States. There are a lot of things going wrong in America these days, but festivals aren't one of those things.

No, a good festival is more than just a funnel cake and a roasted turkey leg. It goes much deeper than a carnival and a parade. A good festival provides a linkage to our past. Seeing old friends, spending time with family members that live far away and remembering that one year at the festival when your turtle won the turtle race. See what I mean, it takes you back doesn't it?

The Summerville version of the festival is the Flowertown Festival, a huge arts and crafts extravaganza held each year while the azaelias are in full bloom and benefitting the local YMCA. The red and lavendar azaelias are breathtaking, in fact, the display around Azaelia Park off of Main Street in the Historic District rivals that of Augusta National Golf Club. Some of the flowering shrubs are literally as big as a house. It is little wonder that in the 1970's the civic leaders of the day decided to hold a spring festival honoring the beauty of The Flowertown In The Pines and the explosion of color that occurs here each spring. That the Flowertown Festival has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in support for the impressive and thriving Summerville YMCA organization is a credit to those early visionaries who worked to establish the spring celebration.

Sure all festivals come with their share of headaches and an abundance of political drama and controversy (spoken like a true veteran Mountain State Forest Festival Director General 2002) but if you can get past all of that you will undoubtedly make some memories and enjoy yourself. Unless of course you don't like crowds, in that case you should definitely stay home. But me, I am appreciative of the time spent by the volunteers who have a vision and work and develop a plan to give us all something to look forward to each year. If you can, come on down some year to the Flowertown In The Pines for the Flowertown Festival. If you can't make it, at least find a festival nearby so you can enjoy the merriment and frivolity that goes along with them. Have a great weekend, wherever you may be and don't be afraid to chase a dream and turn it into reality. Who knows, you may just end up in The Land of Palm Trees.

Note: The images included in todays post are from The Summerville Journal Scene Galleries; click link to view more photos