Whenever I read or hear about Fest-i-Fun, it brings to mind Festivus, the festival "for the rest of us," which was born in a 1997 "Seinfeld" episode and which has achieved permanent status in American pop-culture folklore.
Alas, unlike Frank Costanza's pseudo festival, his way of thumbing his nose at Christmas commercialization, Fest-i-Fun likely won't be immortalized in TV reruns.
Indeed, it may never happen again. Fort Mill's new mayor, Danny Funderburk, has announced he wants to replace the annual community festival with a day-long event he's calling SpringFest.
That Fest-i-Fun was started by Charlie Powers, the long-time mayor Funderburk unseated last November, may give rise to suspicions that Funderburk's primary motive is severing connections to an annual celebration Powers has been involved with for its entire 25-year history.
Funderburk says otherwise, citing such factors as location, the festival's duration and that, despite the town's financial backing, Fest-i-Fun never has been owned by the city. (It belongs to an independent non-profit outfit run by Powers and others.)
It's been a bad year for Charlie Powers. First, he loses the election. Next, he's shot in a convenience store stick-up. Now, the guy who defeated him wants to kill off Fest-i-Fun.
I hope Fort Millians won't take this affront lying down.
If Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols were to suggest renaming this city's Come-See-Me Festival "Dogwood Days," or some other spring-themed moniker, he'd be hanged in effigy throughout Glencairn Garden.
Indeed, almost every complaint Funderburk has raised about Fest-i-Fun could -- and has -- been raised about Come-See-Me: It has a goofy name; it lasts too long (at 10 days, Come-See-Me is three times longer than Fest-i-Fun!); many of the events seem only tangentially connected to the theme; and every year, some yahoos spoil the fireworks finale for others by imbibing too much and acting like jackasses.
Most likely, similar criticisms could be made about many -- if not most -- community festivals in the state, from Pageland's Watermelon Festival to Salley's Chitlin' Strut.
Almost by definition, small town festivals suffer from lack of funding, overly optimistic projections, commercialization and blatant amateurism. Given all that, why have a community festival at all?
Surely, the money and energy expended could be put to more practical uses, from filling potholes to feeding the hungry.
The best answer to that question was evident at last month's Come-See-Me kickoff breakfast. As festival chief Margaret Wallace introduced her committee co-chairs, I was reminded of our first few years in Rock Hill, when my wife was enlisted, first, to help with Gourmet Gardens and, a couple years later, to chair the overall festival.
Come-See-Me provided us and our two daughters an entrée to Rock Hill. More importantly, it led to friendships and associations that have endured and grown over two decades.
Countless other Rock Hillians could say the same thing: Come-See-Me was their introduction to the community; all they had to do was roll up their sleeves and volunteer.
Looking at the crop of enthusiastic citizens who will put on this year's Come-See-Me Festival, it struck me that several were younger than my own children. Some, I know, had grown up in Rock Hill and no doubt counted past Come-See-Me Festivals among their earliest and favorite childhood memories.
To my mind, any endeavor that binds generations together in a common effort to celebrate the community to which they belong needs no further justification.
There was a time when Americans gathered at political rallies, volunteer fire department barbecues and Fourth of July picnics. If not communitywide events, these annual celebrations bound together people who didn't normally associate beyond the workplace or church. Those institutions survive -- barely -- but for most of us, community ties are much weaker today.
What was once a nation of small towns has become a country in which communities look alike and inhabitants are more familiar with the contestants on "American Idol" than they are with their neighbors.
And that's why every community needs a Festivus.
Long live Come-See-Me.
Long live Fest-i-Fun -- or whatever they call it.