The city of Riceboro’s annual RiceFest celebration starts Saturday.
The festival highlights the city’s rice-harvesting roots and Gullah Geechee culture.
From its humble beginnings in 2007, RiceFest has grown to draw thousands of visitors from the Carolinas, Florida and other parts of Georgia.
RiceFest pays homage to the city’s heritage through music, food, demonstrations, entertainment, a parade and rice cooking contest.
RiceFest will be celebrated over the first and second weekends in November, with the main festival day Saturday, Nov. 11.
Chris Stacy, RiceFest chairman and Riceboro councilman, expects over 50 vendors will be at the festival.
“Vendors from around the Southeast will be on hand to share their famous recipes and crafts,” Stacy said. “This year we anticipate attendance for the four days to exceed 30,000 fans.”
The 2017 Liberty RiceFest pageant kicks off the celebration Nov. 4 at the Riceboro Youth Center 1-4 p.m.
Girls ages 3 to 19, who live in Liberty County, will compete for the titles of Miss Liberty RiceFest Baby, Little Miss Liberty RiceFest and Miss Liberty RiceFest.
This year’s contestants are Zoey Penny, Erykah Ivory, Aniyah Hunter, Jocelyn Brown, Arlasia Jones, Enyce Roberts and Rachel Henry.
Contestants will showcase their knowledge of Gullah Geechee culture, talent, poise and public speaking.
There will be other special guests and entertainment throughout the pageant and a youth dance from 3-5 p.m. following the pageant for K-12 students.
The third annual Riceboro GospelFest is Sunday, featuring Melvin Williams and other local artists at the youth center 6-9 p.m.
The next weekend will start with the RiceFest Homecoming Nov. 10 7-11:30 p.m. at the youth center.
It is an adult-only event and will feature Barbara Carlyle and the Real Housewives of Comedy, music by Special Formula Band and food catered by K&C Catering.
Krystal Hart, RiceFest marketing coordinator, said the homecoming has become a big reunion for community members.
“People are planning their family reunions around the homecoming,” Hart said. “There will be a big cookout with music and entertainment. It will really be a top-notch production.”
Festival Day, Nov. 11, will begin with the RiceFest Parade, starting at the youth center, up South Coastal Highway 17 and ending at Jones Street.
This year’s theme is “The Hidden Figures of Riceboro” focusing on local and historical figures and veterans.
After the parade is an opening ceremony and then a full day of activities starting at 11 a.m. on the grounds next to the Riceboro City Hall.
This year’s headliner is Brick with opening act Tru Gentleman.
There will be performances by Special Formula Band, Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, Abeni Dance Company, educational exhibits, storytelling, kid activities, demonstrations, food vendors, dance performances and more.
Local cooks will vie for the Judges Award and People’s Choice Award in the rice cook-off. Attendees can pay to sample the dishes from different categories.
Hart believes RiceFest has found a special niche in the community.
“There’s an emphasis on culture and we want it to be different than any other festival,” Hart said.
2017 Liberty RiceFest Pageant
Nov. 4, 1-4 p.m. at Riceboro Youth Center
$5 in advance and $8 at the door.
Nov. 5 6-9 p.m. at Riceboro Youth Center
$10 in advance
Nov. 10 7-11:30 p.m. at Riceboro Youth Center
Advanced tickets sold at Riceboro City Hall Monday-Friday until Nov. 10
Only 250 tickets available
$15 in advance and $20 at the door
2017 RiceFest Parade
Nov. 11 9-10 a.m. starting at the Riceboro Youth Center and continuing up South Coastal Highway
Nov. 11, opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. and even kick-off at 11 a.m.
This event is free to the public
For more information on RiceFest events visit www.riceborogaricefest.com or call 912-463-2020