Organizers of the 10th Annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival say things are running smoothly and preparations are in full swing for the big event. They’re also saying the tenth anniversary comes along with every indication that this year will be the biggest and best year yet for the festival.
The festival kicks off Friday evening at J.F. Gregory Park, and the events are lined up one after another through Sunday, providing a jam-packed weekend that offers something for everyone.
"We’re ready," said Chamber of Commerce Director Kittie Franklin. "There is every reason for everyone to look forward to this weekend’s festivities. We’ve got the best food line-up we’ve ever had, great entertainment…all things considered, I think this year will be the year to be there."
Organizers are projecting record-breaking attendance figures, with plans to accommodate 36,000 visitors over the three-day event this weekend, Oct. 17-19.
"As long as the weather holds up, and I am predicting great weather – and you can quote me on that, we should pack it out," Festival chairman Janet Thayer said. She said current projections show merely a twenty percent chance of rain, with cool weather to boot.
As with past years, attendees should prepare to be treated to great food, great music, arts and crafts, local business vendors, classic cars and a carnival for all ages.
In an effort to stick more closely to the festival’s namesake, strict guidelines were handed down to food vendors this year which will result in more actual seafood being available at the festival’s food booths than ever before.
Approximately 25 food booths, 25 arts and crafts booths and 25 business booths will outline the park. Thayer made special mention that "the boy scouts will be back by popular demand with their wonderful cobbler."
Geechee the Shrimp, a volunteer dressed in, yes, you guessed it - a shrimp costume, will be ever present throughout the weekend. Stuffed Geechee dolls will be available for purchase as well as other official merchandise, such as T-shirts, baseball caps and an official 10th anniversary print, by local artist Jim Leahy.
The Charlie Daniels Band will hit the stage Saturday at 9 p.m. to headline a long list of musical talent that organizers have lined up to appear throughout the weekend. Other featured bands include the ever-popular Swingin’ Medallions, country pop singer Lesley Roy, alternative rock bands Wrecking Season and Wormsloew, funk jam band The Root Doctors and Savannah rock band The Long Awaited.
Mayor Richard Davis said he plans to give Daniels a key to the city when he arrives at the show. He also said this year should be the best yet – if the weather holds up.
"If it rains, the economic conditions in Richmond Hill are going to be worse than the New York stock exchange," Davis jokingly said. "I just bought $500 worth of ingredients for the jambalaya I’ll be dishing out at the Exchange Club booth. We should be OK, though. We’ve been lucky every year thus far."
Speaking of the state of the economy, Thayer said the festival’s affordable pricing should detour any potential effects that could have on attendance figures. She pointed to the fact that bracelets can be purchased this year to allow unlimited entry to the carnival rides.
Thayer also brought up the fact that, this year, the old Kroger parking lot will be used for festival parking "in addition to all the normal parking areas at schools, churches and Hobart. They’ll be plenty of spots and plenty of signage to get to a parking spot, along with shuttles that bring you right up to the park entrance."
Admission is $5 Friday. Saturday is $5, but the price jumps up to $15 if you enter the park after 4 p.m. Sunday is $3, but military showing ID get in free that day. Children three and under are free. Kids ages 4-12 are $3 all weekend.
Most of the festival proceeds will go to the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce, as this is their annual fundraiser.
"The Chamber couldn’t fund the programs we have without the Seafood Festival," Franklin said. "It keeps Chamber dues down and allows us to serve the business community with services, classes and programs like Leadership Bryan, Business Bryan and the Annual Business and Consumer Expo."
For more information on the festival, call the Chamber at 756-3444 or visit www.goseafoodfestival.com .