The sixth annual Small World Festival was a little smaller than usual this year. About 18 vendors greeted a crowd of 600 people, according Small World Festival staffer Katrina Barrow. The estimate for attendees in 2013 was 1,500.
“I am disappointed with the attendance and participation at this year’s festival,” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said. “The Small World Festival is important. We will learn from this year and use what we learn to improve for next year.”
This year’s event went head-to-head with Glennville’s 37th annual Sweet Onion Festival in neighboring Tattnall County.
The Small World Festival began in the 1980s on Hinesville’s downtown square as a way to highlight the diversity brought to the community via the travels of Army soldiers.
After some time, the festival was abandoned until six years ago, when the city of Hinesville and the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority resurrected the event.
For the first four years, the festival remained downtown. In 2013, the event moved to the amphitheater area at Bryant Commons.
“This is still a relatively new event, but we are excited to have families here in this venue,” Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said.
Fort Stewart resident and first-time attendee Jenny Rowley said her children enjoyed the music, crafts and food — especially the noodles.
“Since it started, we always come,” said Robert Dorsey of Hinesville, who attended with his wife, Carolyn. The couple said they enjoy meeting new people and listening to music.
Two Zumba instructors from Fort Stewart, Jackie Edwards and Anita Courtney, led children and adults through several bouncing, jumping, calorie-burning, Brazilian-based exercise routines.
Other performers included singer-songwriter Wyatt Richey, who belted out several well-known tunes. Then, he offered the crowd a couple of new songs, which he said he had just written two days earlier. Meanwhile, Jimmy Wayne Renfro shared American blues from the stage.
Returning performer Bhavi Patel swirled in bright colors as she did traditional Indian dances. Patel’s 5-year-old sister, Priti, surprised the organizers and the crowd with her talent, too. Panamanian dancers Conjunto Folklorico Orgullo Panameno also returned to the stage this year.
Hula dancing was a hit again. A group called Children of Polynesia, which includes 35 hula dancers ages 5-37, practices twice a week and performs throughout the region, member Ana Lopez Medine said. The group is based at First Samoan Church of Christ in Ludowici.
“We like the atmosphere, and it is a great way to do a fundraiser,” Medine said, explaining why the group has participated for so many years.
The most popular item at the group’s booth was the Samoan pineapple juice. A cup sold for $2, and it contained a mixture of pineapples, peaches, milk and a few secret ingredients that Medine would not divulge.
“I like trying different foods,” Simone Cochran of Hinesville said. “The Samoan pineapple juice is so good; we have to get our fix each year.”
The island-themed food has Hawaiian roots as well.
“We just came back from Hawaii. We loved the food and decided to call our business Ono Island Grindz, which is slang for ‘delicious island food,’” Derek Walker of Hinesville said.
Ono Island Grindz can be found on post during lunchtime.
“The teriyaki chicken is one of the biggest hits,” Walker said.
Third Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin said the Fort Stewart community appreciates efforts to coordinate the Small World Festival.
“I am an immigrant,” said Gilpin, who was born in Jamaica, “and I feel welcome here.”
Brain Freeze Treats returned for its fourth year to offer flavors of Italian ice.
“I’m a veteran, and I’m glad to come and support events in Hinesville,” Curt Bridgett of Savannah said.
Retired veteran and first-time author Gwendolyn Clark set up a booth to publicize her new book, “The Pig That Bit My Thumb.”
Other vendors included Stitches of Love, The Art of Baking by Henrietta, Eicher’s Pro Vinyl, Rastafarian clothing and accessories, Navy Federal Credit Union and Army Community Services.
Event sponsors included the city of Hinesville; Dee’s Electric; the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority; the Liberty County Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation.