Fort Mill Times

Thousands turn out for Fort Mill's signature event

Jake Haldenwang, a local teen guitar sensation, rocks with his Hwy. 61 Blues Band.
Jake Haldenwang, a local teen guitar sensation, rocks with his Hwy. 61 Blues Band.

Michael Bunch climbed a rock wall.

"Almost there," Connie Bunch said, coaching her son along.

The 12-year-old Fort Mill Middle School student forged on.

"Don't quit!" Connie Bunch called from the ground.

Then he reached the top.

"Ring the bell," Connie Bunch called as Michael hit the bell, signaling he'd made it to the top of the rock wall anchored in Fort Mill's Walter Elisha Park.

Mother and son were among thousands at the park who turned out Saturday during Fort Mill's second annual Springfest, the town's signature salute to spring. Organizer Brown Simpson of the town's parks and recreation department said more than 8,000 people attended the family-friendly festivity.

"We had a great turnout and a real festive atmosphere," he said.

The day-long event featured something for the young and young at heart. In addition to the rock climbing wall, attractions included a Fort Mill Fire Department ladder truck, Piedmont Medical Center's Healthy Hometown, craft and food vendors, live entertainment, face painting and a bungee trampoline.

"It was awesome," Becca Rebain, 10, a student at Fort Mill Middle said of Springfest as she left the park. "The bungee jumping was cool. The air blowups was really fun."

Rebain's friend, Gaines Bralley, was partial to the bungee trampoline.

"We used to have a trampoline, but we never had the big ropes to hold us up," said Gaines Bralley, 9, a third grader at Fort Mill Elementary School. "It was cool to do."

Rock climbing also had a faithful following.

"It was hard," Michael Bunch said of climbing the wall. "But, I got it."

Gaines Michels, 7, a Fort Mill Elementary student, also defeated the wall.

"I like climbing stuff," Gaines Michels said. "You have to use all your muscles."

Steps away, Sofia Chinchilla, 9, soared in the air, thanks to a bungee trampoline.

"I wanted to stay up there until it was night time because no one else would be there and I'd have the whole thing to myself," said Sofia Chinchilla, a third grader at Riverview Elementary School.

Sofia Chinchilla's little sister also favored the air action.

"I was flying in the air," said Abigail Chinchilla, 7, a first grader at Riverview. "I saw the sky and the clouds."

Moments later, Sabrina Roof cut a flip while midair above another bungee trampoline.

"I didn't mean to do that," said Sabrina Roof, 12, a sixth grader at Fort Mill Middle. "I was trying to front flip and it ended up being a back flip."

Roof's cousin, Gary Miller, also a Fort Mill Middle student, favored the rides, but spent nearly three hours beating drums.

"And guitaring. I like to play it (the guitar)," Gary Miller, 12, said. "It makes me feel like I'm lost (in music). It makes me feel good."

The event also was a haven for the young at heart.

"This is wonderful," said Lucy Ford, a Virginia resident who was visiting her Fort Mill grandson, Philip Ford. "It brings the community together. It also shows what the community has to offer."

For Marsha Miller, Springfest ushered an opportunity to rekindle past friendships.

"I've seen lots of people I went to grade school with that I haven't seen for a long time," she said.

Gretchen Whitesell and her daughter, Katy, spent three hours at Springfest.

"We did Healthy Hometown, had lunch and walked around," Katy Whitesell, 11, said.

When asked what she liked the most, Katy Whitesell didn't talk about rock climbing, jumping on the bungee trampoline or face painting. Something else captured her attention.

"The strawberry dessert," she said with a grin.