The 13th annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival attracted tens of thousands of people to Richmond Hill’s J.F. Gregory Park last weekend for a myriad of seafood, carnival rides, games and activities for children and adults, vendor booths and live entertainment by recording artists Orleans, We The Kings and 38 Special.
“The turnout was beyond anyone’s expectations,” Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brianne Yontz said. “It was a sea of humanity. Even the festival veterans said they’ve never seen anything like this.”
“We don’t have a count yet, but for the weekend last year, we estimated 30,000-35,000 people, and I can tell you we definitely exceeded those numbers,” GOSF Committee Secretary Bonnie Proctor said. “We are just absolutely delighted with the turnout.”
According to Proctor, this year’s festival saw more food vendors as well as more business, nonprofit and arts and crafts booths than ever before, with huge waiting lists for each type.
“It’s been fun and I think that’s thanks to the great food, weather and the bands,” Yontz added. “Everyone’s having a good time.”
Warm, sunny weather afforded festivalgoers a chance to explore all the event had to offer.
“A Gamecock just ate a gator,” exclaimed Stinson Rogers, visiting from Moore, S.C. Rogers said it was his first time eating gator and he found it to be delicious.
Marco Arbelaez of Richmond Hill worked his way through a heap of Lowcountry boil Saturday evening.
“I love the seafood festival. I come here every year,” Arbelaez said.
Michelle Richardson and Lyn Rabe worked at the Richmond Hill Boy Scout Troop 400 booth, dishing up piping hot peach cobbler with ice cream.
“It’s been pretty steady all day,” Richardson said of the number of visitors hoping to purchase the cobbler, which won the festival’s People’s Choice Award for the third year in a row.
Nicholas Hahn, 13, sat at a packed picnic table in the pavilion on Saturday afternoon to enjoy a basket of crawfish. Hahn, a member of Boy Scout Troop 400, said his favorite part of the festival is the seafood.
“That and all the positive comments on our peach cobbler,” he explained.
Kenitra Green of Richmond Hill visited the festival with Vecynthia Parker of Savannah.
“The food is great,” Green said. “It’s the main attraction.”
“I’m enjoying it,” said Parker, who took her 2-year-old daughter Caleigh to the event. “We’ve had a lot of fun. There’s great entertainment for adults, great food and lots of fun for kids.”
We The Kings, a Bradenton, Fla.-based band, opened the Saturday night concert. Lead singer Travis Clark and guitarist Hunter Thomsen played an acoustic set.
“It was amazing. I love being back down in the South,” Thomsen said after the performance.
“I loved it,” Clark said of performing on the GOSF stage. “Sometimes at a festival like this, you never know what to expect as far as the audience, but a lot of We The Kings fans are here and they were all singing along.”
Headliner 38 Special took the stage just after 9 p.m., opening with “Rockin’ Into The Night.” The band played all of their hit singles and even a few deeper tracks, closing with “Hold On Loosely” to raucous cheers from the crowd.
Festival Entertainment Chairwoman Janet Thayer said she was pleased with the concert.
“I think it went fantastic,” she said. “Overall, this was one of the easiest shows I’ve done.”
Thayer has been involved with the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival since its inception and has served on the entertainment committee for the past five years.
Saturday night’s festivities culminated with a fireworks display.
According to the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce, there were no major incidents to report.
However, on Saturday evening during We The Kings’ performance, an announcement was made regarding a missing child. Shortly thereafter, during 38 Special’s set, a sign reading “Child is Missing” could be seen bobbing through the crowd.
Chamber officials said the family accidentally had been separated but was reunited.