In its 15th year of operation, the Great Ogeechee Seafood festival welcomed thousands of guests to J.F. Gregory Park over the weekend in what has become one of Richmond Hill’s most anticipated events of the year.
Jerry DeLoach, co-chair of the Seafood Festival Committee, said he was pleasantly surprised to see festival guests stick around through bad weather on Saturday evening.
Though the rain prevented a few of the opening acts from taking the stage as planned, most guests sought cover near the food areas which, according to DeLoach, could explain higher sales compared to last year.
“Even with the rain on Saturday, we had quite a few more people this year than last,” DeLoach said. “From speaking to some of the vendors, I found that a few of them had actually ran out of food Saturday night and had to restock for Sunday. Some of them are so happy with their sales that they’re already trying to book a slot for next year, so I would say the Seafood Fest was a huge success.”
Scott Schell, scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 400 of Richmond Hill, was just one of the many food vendors to reap the benefits of this year’s turnout.
Troop 400 has two very important jobs each year of the festival — making peach cobbler and post-festival cleanup. Each year the Scouts, ranging in ages from 11 to 18, take turns baking cobblers in cast-iron Dutch ovens and picking up trash throughout the park.
This year, Schell said he was glad to see how many people lined up to support his Scouts.
“This was definitely one of our better years,” Schell said. “Even though attendance was down on Friday, we were cooking on 212 Dutch ovens as compared to last year’s 158. I don’t know the exact numbers yet, but do I know we got lots of compliments from the other vendors and our trash pickup the next day went really well, too.”
Entertainment acts Chris Wallace, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ and Collective Soul took the stage Saturday evening, but most guests agreed that the food stole the show.
Local restaurants Love’s Seafood and Smokin’ Pig made an appearance as well as many local nonprofits, such as the Richmond Hill Lion’s Club and Fort McAllister Sport Fishing Club.
Seafood Festival Committee co-chair Doug Martin reported that nearly 30,000 people turned out for the festival this year. But he said he was more excited that all the vendors were happy with their festival experience.
“I would say the event was a big success,” he said. “From what I could tell, all the vendors were happy, the people were happy and personally, I’m looking forward to co-chairing the festival next year.”
Martin said that total sales for this year’s festival are still being calculated but that he imagines it will surpass last year’s food and ticket sales.