On Saturday Nov. 10, thousands gathered in Riceboro for the 12th annual Ricefest Festival. The festival honors the heritage of rice farming and the Gullah Geechee culture.
Rice farming was a large part of the agriculture in the southeast region of the United States due to the hot and humid climate.
“[Today] is going great and the turnout is picking up due to the weather warming up,” Riceboro Mayor Pro-Term Tommy Williams Sr. said. “We’re expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people.”
The festival was filled with vendors, a free concert from singers Tony Terry and Pokey Bear, and giant playhouses for kids to enjoy.
“Ricefest has truly become a great reunion for the people of Liberty County,” Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette said. “We applaud the city of Riceboro for hosting this and is one of Liberty County’s best festivals.”
From Savannah State University, Dr. Jamal Toure was one of the guest speakers honoring the Gullah Geechee culture at the Ricefest.
According to gullahgeecheecorridor.org, Gullah Geechee people are descendants of Central and West Africans who were enslaved together on the eastern U.S. coastline. Coming from rice-producing countries like Sierra Leone, many slaves landed in Charleston, South Carolina.
Gullah stems from creole language spoken in coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. Geechee stems from the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia.
“I think Ricefest is a wonderful experience and keeps getting larger and larger,” Liberty County Minority Chamber CEO Sabrina Newby.
Famous R&B singer Tony Terry and Louisiana blues and soul singer both took center stage to perform free concerts at the festival.
“I’m impressed to see the community,” Terry said.
“When I’m working, I always feel good,” Pokey Bear said. “I came here to show how Pokey Bear do it.”
In the rice cook-off contest, Lynn Golden won first place in the meat and rice category of the competition.
New to the scene was food business Tres Amigos. The restaurant run by Damien Jones, Marcus Troche, and Sau Troche, were first time vendors at the festival.
“We spent a few years here but didn’t know about Ricefest,” Jones said. “This year we knew we wanted to be a vendor and test our food out.”
Tres Amigos served empanadas, hamburgers, and jambalaya with rice. They also served special pink lemonade that was a family recipe.
“Rice has brought all of us together, “Jones said. “ Overall it’s a great opportunity and the festival has a hometown feel and family environment.