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Good times get under way
seafood special kids 1
Ishmal Wiggins of Hinesville, a Bradwell Institute student, is among the students riding the Silver Streak on Friday morning when the park was opened for area kids. More than 100 kids attended the event, which has grown in popularity each year. - photo by Mindy Boyete
Bus loads of kids from across the Coastal Empire pulled into  J.F. Gregory Park teeming with excitement Friday afternoon to officially kick off the 10th Annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival.
No one was more excited than young Hinesville resident Brianna McDonald, who jumped and down - and up and down - yelling, “Festival! Festival!”
Each year the festival carnival slows down the rides and lowers the music to welcome special needs kids for a few hours of fun and excitement. The kids are students from Liberty, Effingham and Chatham County schools and several local residents from Bryan County bring their little ones.
“There is no better way to kick off this great weekend of fun,” said event volunteer Mindy Boyette.
“It’s a way for us to give back to the community,” Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jerry Deloach said. “We’ve got great feedback from these groups in the last few years.”
Deloach said this year’s special event saw 150 people, which included special needs kids and their families, which is much more than in past years. He also said he’d like to see more kids from Bryan in future years.
“I think it’s a good way for the students to do the same things other kids their age are doing without any adaptation,” said Trang Black, special education teacher at Snelson Golden Middle School in Hinesville. “The festival organizers were kind enough to make those adaptations for us, like slowing down the rides and limiting the number of guests because sometimes even the sheer size of a crowd can be overwhelming for our students. And the kids just have a great time.”
Black said she even integrated the event into her curriculum, as the students write letters to their parents describing the event as well as thank you notes to the Chamber.
After two hours of riding the scaled-down kiddie rides, the kids walked over to the pavilion for lunch. Richmond Hill Exchange Club members fired up the grill as the Swingin’ Medallions had them dancing and clapping to an acoustic set.
The festival opened to the general public later that day. As expected, the park filled up with people as the atmosphere of food, music, arts and crafts, local business vendors, classic cars and a carnival filled the air. The Swingin’ Medallions hit the stage at 9 p.m. and closed out the first day of festivities, which was blessed with near-perfect weather.
Today is expected to be the biggest day of the festival, with a slew of back-to-back events lined up from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Charlie Daniels Band will hit the stage at 9 p.m., followed by a fireworks display at around 11 p.m.
There is no entertainment lined up for Sunday, but military are admitted free with ID as part of “military appreciation day.”
Admission Saturday is $5, but the price jumps up to $15 if you enter the park after 4 p.m. Sunday is $3. Children three and under are free. Kids ages 4-12 are $3 all weekend. For more information, visit

Event schedule:
9 a.m.-3 p.m. - Classic car show
10-10:30 a.m. - Richmond Hill High School Band
10:30-11 a.m. - Tatiana Lambert
11 a.m.-noon - Life Moves Dance Studio
Noon-12:30 p.m. - The Studio Dancer
12:30-1:30 p.m. - Richmond Hill Middle School Band
1:30-2:30 p.m. - Kelly/Creek Studio Dance this Way
2:30-3 p.m. Dancing Unlimited
3-4 p.m. - Cheer Savannah
5-6 p.m. - Wrecking Season
6-7 p.m. – Wormsloew
7-7:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremony with National Anthem by Ossabaw Sound
7:30-9 p.m. Leslie Roy
9 p.m.- around 11 p.m. - The Charlie Daniels Band, followed by fireworks
Sunday, open from 11 a.m-5 pm.

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