In its 15th year of operation, the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival welcomed thousands of guests to J.F. Gregory Park during the weekend for what has become one of Richmond Hill’s most-anticipated events of the year.
Seafood Festival Committee Co-Chairman Jerry DeLoach said he was pleasantly surprised to see festival guests stick around through bad weather Saturday evening.
Though the rain prevented a few of the opening acts from taking the stage as planned, most guests sought cover near the food areas, which, according to DeLoach, might explain higher sales compared to last year.
“Even with the rain on Saturday, we had quite a few more people this year than last,” he said. “From speaking to some of the vendors, I found that a few of them had actually run out of food Saturday night and had to restock for Sunday. Some of them are so happy with their sales that they’re already trying to book a slot for next year, so I would say the seafood fest was a huge success.”
Scott Schell, scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 400 of Richmond Hill, was one of the many food vendors to reap the benefits of this year’s turnout.
Troop 400 has two jobs each year at the festival — making peach cobbler and handling post-festival cleanup. Each year, the Scouts, who range in age from 11 to 18, take turns baking cobblers in cast-iron Dutch ovens and picking up trash throughout the park.
This year, Schell said he was glad to see so many people line up to support his Scouts.
“This was definitely one of our better years,” Schell said. “Even though attendance was down on Friday, we were cooking in 212 Dutch ovens, compared to last year’s 158. I don’t know the exact numbers yet, but do I know we got lots of compliments from the other vendors, and our trash pickup the next day went really well, too.”
Entertainment acts Chris Wallace, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ and Collective Soul took the stage Saturday evening, but most guests agreed that the food stole the show.
Local restaurants Love’s Seafood and Smokin’ Pig set up shop, as did many local nonprofits, such as the Richmond Hill Lions Club and Fort McAllister Sport Fishing Club.
Seafood Festival Committee Co-Chairman Doug Martin reported that nearly 30,000 people turned out for the festival this year. However, he said he was more excited that all the vendors were happy with their festival experiences.
“I would say the event was a big success,” he said. “From what I could tell, all the vendors were happy, the people were happy and, personally, I’m looking forward to co-chairing the festival next year.”
Martin said that total sales for this year’s festival still are being calculated, but he expects the amount will exceed last year’s food and ticket-sale proceeds.