I have a long history of thinking things will fail quickly only to see them last years beyond that initial prediction. I watched Conan O’Brien’s first show and thought that goofy, redheaded, unfunny man would be off the air in weeks. Not only is he still on the air, but I now find him hilarious.
My Dad and I watched the inaugural WNBA game and thought the league would be shuttered before the first year was up. While I’ve never watched another game, we were dead wrong. The same holds true for Fort Mill’s S.C. Strawberry Festival.
The first one I attended, I thought that elementary school fun days were more appealing. Chalk up another poor prediction by yours truly. By the time you read this, another Strawberry Festival will be in the books, and each year it grows and attracts more visitors to Fort Mill. Parking a half block away like I did that first year is no longer possible – there’s now a well-oiled system of shuttle buses departing from high school parking lots.
While I didn’t think the festival would survive, it is something I’m happy to be wrong about. It represents both the small town feel that we have and the welcoming reception for visitors. As I walk across Walter Elisha Park, I’ll see half a dozen of more people I know amidst the crowd. The lines to get food and drink will be long, but I always seem to talk to somebody throughout the wait. Blankets will be spread out in front of the band areas, people eating, drinking, relaxing and sleeping while the evening gets a bit cooler and darkness descends.
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When I lived in Anderson, we would go to an Apple Festival in Westminster. It seemed hokey as heck, but we’d go every year, bringing back bellies full of apple pie and arms full of bushels of apples. Here, we return home with bellies full of deep fried strawberries and arms full of quarts of massive, red fruit.
That tiny little event several years ago is now something people, including myself, look forward to. Make no mistake, it is hokey, but it is also a slice of something you don’t get everyday. It’s awesome to just get out for a night and listen to some music, smell some smoked food and chat with friends and strangers. It’s a respite from electronics and technology and it is a community coming together, not just for the party, but for the volunteering and side events taking place.
The Nation Ford football team hosts a strawberry pancake breakfast each year to raise money, and since they have people parking in the lots there, directing them to the cafeteria for a bite to start the day pays handsomely. Local organizations use the S.C. Strawberry Festival to promote their achievements, too. When my daughter took gymnastics at Carolina Stars, they had tumbling demonstrations going on throughout the day.
To all of those who have grown the event and who help to make it a success each and every year, thank you!
Scott Cost: firstname.lastname@example.org