As we move towards the first weekend in May, I wonder how things might have been in 2008 if the Fort Mill Times and Fort Mill Town officials had published and discussed the correct history of Fest-i-Fun?
Charlie Richards, the 1981 president of the Fort Mill Chamber of Commerce, proposed Fest-i-Fun "To show off our community in its spring finery and to share our heritage." The Fest-i-Fun was scheduled for the second weekend in April 1982, "at a time when azaleas and dogwoods are in full bloom."
Blanche Carter, Fort Mill postmaster, was the first chairperson and is often credited with suggesting the name Fest-i-Fun. Other important contributors to the beginning of this event were: Steve McCrae, artist program; Howard Knox, Volksmarch; Bill Blackwelder, car show: Ivan Broadwell, Main Street Antique Show; Hoss Nesbitt, bandstand music; Bill Stroupe, T-shirts and hats; Lunsford McFadden, Street Dance; Charles Powers, cleanup; Joe Lee, PTL Bus Tour; and others.
The unpredictable weather in early April caused the committee to change the date in 1984 to the first weekend of May. The festival has operated continuously on this date for 23 years.
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Had the Fort Mill Town Council not decided to halt the event, 2008 would have been the 26th consecutive year for Fest-i-Fun (2007 had only Friday activities due to fire).
Unquestionably, things have changed over the years. The sponsoring Fort Mill Chamber of Commerce ceased to exist in 1999 and became part of the York County Regional Chamber. The regional chamber was not in a position to take over the sponsorship of a festival that was designated to highlight only Fort Mill.
A committee of local citizens completed the necessary paperwork in 2000 to incorporate Fest-i-Fun as a nonprofit community organization that would continue the festival on the first weekend in May and use the proceeds for community improvement. Then mayor Charles Powers served as chairman.
The festival flourished over the years. The Fantastic Shakers, the Embers and other known bands made the Friday night dance a favorite with adults. The carnival rides and the fireworks made Saturday a favorite with the kids. All ages enjoyed the food and merchandise vendors. Various Fort Mill school choral groups and bands performed, and what about the walking parade on Saturday morning and the art display by school children in the lobby of the Post Office? Over the years Fest-i-Fun has truly been something for everyone - remember the dog shows and the walking tours?
Granted, there have been minor problems. Fort Mill police have handled these problems as they would at ball games, road races, parades or any other public event. As for last year's fire, the police presence because of Fest-i-Fun may very well have prevented further damage to the downtown area. Fest-i-Fun certainly in no way caused the fire.
Many things about Fort Mill have gone away and there is no way to bring them back. Fest-i-Fun is a 25-year-old activity enjoyed by many. The current Fest-i-Fun committee recognizes that they can't be on Main Street because of the town council's actions at Mayor Danny Funderburk's urging. The committee also realizes the traditional first weekend in May is no longer available. But, rest assured, Fest-i-Fun will be back at a time and place to be announced later.
Editor's note: The Fort Mill Town Council did not "halt" Fest-i-Fun as this letter states, but rather created an official town event called "SpringFest" scheduled for May 3.