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

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