It was sunny for the seventh annual Ricefest on Saturday in downtown Riceboro. The event, which included a parade and entertainment, as well as food booths and product vendors, drew a large crowd.
Paying homage to Riceboro’s history of rice-growing and the Geechee culture, the event lets the community come together to celebrate its hometown pride.
This year’s theme, “Love and Happiness,” represented the sense of community present throughout the day. Friends and neighbors warmly greeted each other. Smiles and laughter were in abundance.
Ricefest has become a tradition held every second Saturday in November since 2007, according to Phyllis Tucker, a systems coordinator for SNF Holding Company.
She said SNF has been the title sponsor since the festival started.
“Being a chemical company located in Riceboro, people often have concerns,” Tucker said. “We are trying to change perceptions through community outreach through our care program.”
Tucker said SNF employees serve on the Ricefest committee, getting involved in all aspects: booking entertainment, making up the program, set up and decorating. Employees also manned the prize-registration tent in addition to having a company booth.
“We are Riceboro,” she said. “This is our town, and we are glad to be here to support these types of events.”
Festivities kicked off with a parade along Highway 17, ending at Riceboro City Hall where vendors were preparing food and setting out wares.
The parade was led by grand marshal Jim Bacote, an activist and owner and operator of Geechee Gullah Cultural Center. The parade also featured city and county officials, the Liberty County High School marching band and color guard, and a host of organizations, clubs and churches.
Although crowds for the parade appeared small, people came out in force shortly thereafter, and the crowd continued to grow throughout the afternoon. An opening ceremony included songs by the First African Baptist Church male chorus, a welcome from Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin, and Riceboro history by Midway Middle School Principal Debra Frazier.
Michael Hulett’s music got the crowd going as he kicked off entertainment. He was followed by other entertainers throughout the afternoon, including Ritmo and Sabor, D’Shon, comedian Hurricane Andrews, Geechee Gullah Shouters and, the big draw of the day, the Jeff Floyd Band.
Martha Cox-Howard, who was singing and dancing in the aisle, is a Springfield resident who was born and raised in Riceboro. It was her third Ricefest, and she said she was having a great time.
“I love the music and the food, but it is also a chance to see and catch up with a lot of people that I grew up with,” she said.
More than 55 vendors attended. Community-service organizations were there to share information about what they do.
Liberty County Health Department was giving out materials on breast-cancer awareness and signing up eligible women for its Brave Project. Be The Match, a national bone marrow donor program, was registering people for its database. The Riceboro Fire Department had a display of fire-safety information with handouts for children.