The 33rd annual Long County Fall Wildlife Festival took place Saturday and saw one of the event’s largest crowds ever.
The Long County High School Band played several songs for the crowd, followed by Debbie Gaitten introducing the queens from the recent Wildlife Festival Beauty Pageant. This year’s pageant winners were Analee Breningstall, Cambree Armfield, Jailyn Holland, Alexis Snelling, Anastasia Snelling and Chezney Cassell. After the pageant winners left the stage, master of ceremonies Charlie Smith introduced this year’s Citizen of the Year, Mike Riddle. Festival coordinator Becky Fowler presented a plaque to Riddle and thanked him for his service to Long County. Riddle briefly spoke to the crowd, thanking the festival for the award and the community and his wife, Gina, for their support.
Steve Griffee, Tara Allen, Gavin Allen, Pebbles Rogers, Bobby Ray Seits, Marty Pye, Heather Leone, Tabitha Fowler, Emma Bacon, David Simmons and David Abrahamson took the stage to play music. Ludowici First Baptist Church’s Kids of the King and a combined choir from St. Phillips and Pleasant Hill churches also performed.
The Erin Houston dancers, Gina’s Gems, the Prison Cloggers and the Wildcat Divas also provided entertainment.
Fowler said the festival has grown over the years, and that growth has meant more work for those who plan it. She said that without the support of the local businesses, the festival would not be possible.
One of the primary goals of the event, she said, is to provide a fun day for the kids in the area. Kids’ activities included face painting, a catfish pond, an archery range, a play land and a petting zoo.
“As long as the kids enjoy it, then I’m happy … there is very little for the kids to do and enjoy in Long County that doesn’t cost a whole bunch of money, and that is what the festival is all about,” Fowler said.
She said that the small proceeds raised from the festival pay the site’s monthly electric bill, go toward donations for needy causes, assist in funding mission trips, help families in need and go back into the event.
The first festival was held in 1982, Fowler said, and was organized by a group of Long County farmers. The site where it is held was purchased in 1989. Since then, concrete slabs, electricity, lighting and a patriotic-themed stage have been added.
Fowler said that she encourages anyone who wishes to help with next year’s festival to contact her.
“We always encourage the younger folks to get involved,” she said. “If anyone would like to help and get involved, you’re always welcomed.”