UPDATE: 6:40 p.m. Saturday night events cancelled. This from festival organizers: "After continued dialogue concerning Tropical Storm Nestor with the Fire Chief, the Chief of Police, Emergency Management Services, Event Production and entertainment representatives, and in deference for the safety of our patrons, vendors, community partners, and volunteers, tonight’s event has been canceled." Admission to the festival is free on Sunday. Carnival wristbands from Saturday can be used on Sunday.
When forecasters announced Thursday that a tropical storm had suddenly formed in the Gulf and would result in a wet weekend for Bryan County residents, organizers, vendors and pre-sale ticket-holders for the three-day Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival must have been concerned.
After all, the event, now in its 21st year, is much anticipated and is the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce's biggest fundraiser. Other outdoor events in the Savannah area were cancelled or postponed, but the Seafood Festival organizers said from day one that the show would go on, rain or shine.
With expected rain and wind on Saturday, thousands flocked to J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill Friday night to the usual assortment of great seafood, musical acts and carnival rides. Some vendors said it appeared that there were more Friday night visitors than in years past.
But as the rain and wind picked up on Saturday, it became clear only the die-hards would start their day off at the festival. From about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the normally packed pavilion had just a small gathering. The carnival rides on the midway were still operating, but one could literally count the visitors on two hands.
On the midway, mud and puddles made for obstacles while walking, and carnival staff were doing their best to pass the time. Harry Andrews is a carnival employee for what he calls "the can" game. He was thankful that there were large crowds Friday night, and was hoping the rain would pass quickly so he didn't lose further business.
Standing next to a kiddie train ride taking pictures of their two children were Andrea and Anthony Baumann of Richmond Hill, who had purchased their non-refundable carnival tickets in advance, and as Andrea said, "we wanted to make the most of it."
From the smiles on their two children, they were "fully enjoying it," Andrea said. "They like water and mud." Anthony added, "As long as it wasn't thundering and lightning or raining too hard where the rides would be shut down, we were going to be here."
Inside the covered pavilion, more than a dozen vendors served food, and for non-profits like Scout Troop 400 from Richmond Hill, the day's weather can have a negative impact.
Niki Pye, a parent who was serving food, said Friday night saw brisk business, selling 47 cobblers, "a lot more than last year." She said even if it continued to rain all day Saturday, they often see a good crowd on Sunday. "Hopefully we'll make it up tomorrow."
As of Saturday afternoon, festival organizers are saying on their website that the main headliner acts including Crawford & Power, David Lee Murphy, and the Marshall Tucker Band will indeed perform in the evening. They reminded that there are no refunds on tickets, but that Saturday tickets (both entry and carnival) can be redeemed on Sunday.
For more information, hours, ticket prices, parking etc., see our related story.