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Festival brings smiles, seafood, music to town
Attendance numbers down from last year, up from 2010
SF-KarenHuffman 2910
Karen Huffman with Liberty Foods of Hickory, N.C., passes a plate of steaming hot seafood and vegetables to an eager customer Saturday during the 14th annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival in Richmond Hill. - photo by Lori Wynn

It was a big weekend in Richmond Hill as the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival filled J.F. Gregory Park with kids, kids at heart, carnival rides, vendors — and of course, lots and lots of seafood — for the 14th year in a row.
Liberty Foods from Hickory, N.C., was one of the groups adding to the aroma that wafted throughout the pavilion, and Karen Huffman and Emily Swindell were busy serving up plates of Caribbean-style shrimp, steamed crawdads, corn on the cob and more.
“We love the Seafood Festival,” said Terry Huffman, Karen’s husband and co-owner of Liberty Foods. “We came here from Mum Fest in New Bern (N.C.), and we’re on our way to the Bulldogs/Florida game in Jacksonville next weekend. We love coming down this way.”
Equally pleased to be at the Seafood Festival, and enjoying a heaping plate of the Huffman’s fare, was George Brinkley of Brunswick, who came up for the day with his kids, Lilly, 10, and Daniel, 12.
“They are nowhere to be found,” Brinkley said of his children. “I’m sure they’re off riding rides, which gives me time to enjoy my lunch.”
The weather seemed just right for festival-goers, but a little on the windy side for Coastal Electric Cooperative’s hot air balloon.
“The wind kept the balloon from being inflated until around 5 p.m. each evening,” Mark Bolton, vice president of communications, marketing and development for Coastal Electric Cooperative, said. “We kept it going with riders until we ran out of gas around 8 p.m.”
As the sun set on the park Saturday, the crowd’s focus turned away from the stomach-dropping lure of rides like the Fire Ball, Atmos Fear and the Surge, and more toward the main stage between the Midway and the pavilion.
Local talent, including the Bryan County High School Band, Richmond Hill Middle School Band and several acts from local dance studios, graced the stage throughout the day Saturday. But it was all rock ‘n’ roll after dark as Georgia’s own Blackberry Smoke opened for the headlining band Gin Blossoms.
“The festival went very well,” said Brianne Yontz, executive director of the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce that puts the festival together every year. “The weather was perfect — it was a great weekend.”
Bonnie Proctor, secretary for the chamber’s festival committee, agreed, but noted this year’s attendance was not quite as much as organizers expected.
“Our attendance was down, but you can’t go over the top every year,” she said. “We still had a very, very successful festival.”
Proctor said the festival was planned for around 40,000 — just a little more than the festival saw in 2011. While that goal wasn’t reached, this year’s event did draw more people than in 2010, she said.
“Last year was a record-breaking year,” Yontz said.  “And I think everyone was excited to break the record, but we’re hearing from vendors and nonprofits about how wonderful the festival was (for them).

Read more in the Oct. 24 edition of the News.

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