Come-See-Me tailgaters to see changes for parking, grilling

This year's Come-See-Me festival tailgating party will undergo changes, including a later start time for tailgaters, a $5 parking fee and a ban grills in tow.

Festival chairwoman Margaret Wallace, who announced the changes during a breakfast Wednesday, said organizers had public safety in mind.

The festival, which runs April 17 through 26, won't permit tailgaters to enter the Winthrop Lake area until 3 p.m. April 26, except for sponsors, who will be allowed in at 1 p.m., said Matt Watson, tailgate and fireworks team leader.

Dan Boone, president of the festival's board of governors, which hosted Wednesday's breakfast at the Baxter Hood Center at York Technical College, said the parking fee will pay for extra security.

"We're expecting 25,000 to 27,000 people on 25 to 30 acres. We've never had a major incident," Boone said, "but we need better crowd control."

The fee also might encourage carpooling, Boone said.

In the past, police officers were tied up with parking, limiting their presence at the lake, according to Winthrop Campus Police Chief Frank Zebedis.

This year, Zebedis said, Show Pro, an event-assistance group, will handle the parking, so officers can better patrol the event.

Afterward, the Rock Hill Police Department will assist traffic out to Eden Terrace and Cherry Road, Zebedis said.

Wallace said no grills in tow will be allowed this year because of safety and traffic-flow concerns. Backyard grills, ones that can be carried, Wallace said, are allowed. Grilling is prohibited in the parking lot.

New this year at the tailgating event are wristbands for children. At the gate, parents can band their child's wrist with contact information should the child get lost.

Another change is a barbeque cook-off, replacing the grill-off. The cook-off is open to 25 teams of two to four people, held rain or shine, said Bill Caldwell, festival barbecue team leader.

About 1,750 pounds of barbecue will be cooked by the 25 teams, Caldwell said. Participants can cook on gas, wood or charcoal and the barbecue will be judged by the South Carolina Barbecue Association.

Barbecue will be sold in 1-pound containers for $8. Proceeds will support the Boys and Girls Clubs of York County.

A familiar event to some, the DooDah section of the Come-See-Me parade, is back after being absent from the festival since the 1990s, Wallace said. DooDah is the neighborhood section of the parade.

Neighborhoods can portray any relevant theme, said Ann Skar, parade coordinator. "One year, when the city of Rock Hill came out with rolling trash bins, a neighborhood pushed their children in the trash bins to celebrate," Skar said.

Also announced were the recipients of the 2008 Come-See-Me Service Merit Awards. Five community volunteers were selected from public nominations. The recipients were: Totty Wilkerson, Kathy Patrick Wilson, Bill Teasdale, Betty Powell and Maggie Szeman.