South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – South Congaree held its first Fall Festival last night and only one word describes it, extraordinary! Several thousand people of all ages showed up to enjoy the food, rides, games, vendors, and entertainment.
According to Courtney Smith, the town’s events coordinator, as many as 500 people lined up even before the gates opened to enter. As soon as they were allowed, hordes streamed in and quickly filled the equestrian arena on Oak Street. Eventually, an estimated 2,500 or more came through the gates to enjoy the fall night.
There were hundreds of children in costumes, parents in tow, grandparents trying to keep up, handicapped in wheel chairs and mobility devices, and love-struck teens giggling, holding hands, and dashing about enjoying all there was to offer. There was a general cross section of the community in attendance, all enjoying a great time in South Congaree.
There was food of every type so that you didn’t have to worry about cooking for the evening. You could enjoy bar-b-que, Mexican, traditional fair foods like Elephant Ears, and gourmet shaved ice, among just a few. The food vendors all reported brisk sales, and some even sold out. Steve Keaton, owner of Silly’s Sno-Balls, said that he did so well that he sold completely out of prepared ice and had to close down about an hour before the event was over. “We brought plenty of ice, but the demand was strong, and we just couldn’t stay open after a certain point. Our product depends on the ice being at a certain hardness, and when we were out of ice that was at that correct point, we just closed to keep from selling an inferior product,” Keaton said.
Vendors sold clothing, special soaps and scents, handmade crafts, art, and much more. Larry Sossman of Larry’s Lasers in Pelion had a spot that stayed full of people shopping for personal occasions such as Halloween, Christmas, or fanatical fans following Carolina or Clemson. Sossman sells everything from high end mugs such as the brands Yeti and Arctic, to wood coasters and other personalized items. He said sales were brisk the entire night, and he also had a lot of inquiries about sales in the future.
The lines for the fair rides, inflatables, and games were long, but people were in good spirits as they waited. The pony rides were just one of the huge hits of the night. South Congaree’s Mayor Danny Jones even took his turn leading the ponies as children beamed with joy as they rode. Pastor Gene Henderson and his wife giggled with glee as much as the children as they snapped photos of their first grandchild’s inaugural ride on a horse. “Man, this is something else,” Henderson said with a huge smile on his face. “This is what community is all about!”
Balloon artist Blake Casanova was twisting balloons into artistic shapes. Kerra Carpenter also painted children’s faces into zebras, monkeys, and other interesting patterns that were more art than doodles on a face. A number of adults were also in the line to have Kerra decorate their faces.
Music, provided by DJ Redfo was playing and teens danced to the familiar beats. Many line dances spontaneously broke out and young and old enjoyed the nusic and the dance.
Officers from the South Congaree Police Department walked the grounds in teams, but for the most part, the crowds were well behaved and peaceful. Most were intent on having a great time, not causing a problem.
When the new leadership of South Congaree changed in spring of 2015, they made it a priority to increase community events that would bring pride and a sense of family back to South Congaree. “We still have our challenges,” Mayor Danny Jones said recently. “We still have challenges that we’re working on, but events such as the fall festival help to showcase the town as a great place to live and raise your family.”
Certainly, the South Congaree Fall Festival will become an annual event. Jones said he told Courtney Smith that he wanted 2,500 at the festival, and she certainly wasn't disappointed.“ I couldn’t be prouder of her, the town’s employees, or what’s happening here tonight. It by far exceeded my expectations.”