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Fourth annual Ricefest draws crowds
Los Angeles comedian Bruh Man entertains the crowd. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
There was a steady stream of traffic as folks came out to Riceboro Saturday to celebrate the Gullah/ Geechee Culture and the city of Riceboro’s signature event – the 2010 Ricefest.
The festival started four years ago and recalls the rich tradition of rice cultivation that dates back to the 1700s when enslaved Africans were brought to the coastal region of Liberty County to cultivate rice.
This year, Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin said the event was even bigger with the addition of the festival’s first parade, more food and craft vendors and a larger entertainment venue.
Performances were highlighted by musician Michael Hulett and Los Angeles comedian Bruh Man, who brought the crowd to laughter during a temperate afternoon when the smell of funnel cakes and cheer of kids filled the air.
“I think without a doubt this is the largest crowd we’ve had,” Austin said. “And the largest crowd to be present throughout the festival. We had a great time this morning with the parade and I was taken aback to see how many people came out from the city of Riceboro, who came to see the parade in this town. It reaffirms that you can engage your citizens and if you do things to improve their quality of life, they’ll respond. And they have.”
The mayor said the festival also had visitors from throughout the area and as far away as Florida.
The Jacksonville Corvette club showed off fancy cars and local schools participated in step dance events.
“We broadened our entertainment package to bring in some lighter elements and the crowd has responded to that also,” Austin said about the different performances throughout the day.
“The parade is a desired component…And I believe, next year, we’ll have even more floats and more entries in the parade. We are going to adopt it as part of the Ricefest festivities,” he said.
Among the vendors was sugar cane grower Hosley Hall, who said he has around 52 different varieties of sugar cane growing at his Walthourville farm. Hall, originally from southwest Georgia, sold raw stalks as well as a different variety of syrups and juice.
“I probably have more sugar cane than anybody in the lower eighth portion of southeast Georgia,” he said. “I always admired watching the sugar cane grow as a boy so it’s something that I carried over that I like.”
Hall also had the privilege to lead the morning’s parade riding his horse. Hall has been in Walthourville for nearly 22 years.
Jamie Galloway, a SCAD student, also drew interest at the festival. She was there discussing her thesis on Hampton Island Preserve basing it on the cultivation of colored cotton.
She was demonstrating spinning cotton into yarn and said many people don’t know the process of taking the raw product and making it into the clothes people wear every day.
She said cotton can be grown naturally in brown, green and other colors. She said that most cotton growers started growing white cotton when the industries found a way to dye the product different colors.
Austin said he was already looking forward to next year and said planning would begin promptly to ensure an even better event.
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