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Seafood Fest the best yet


Audio: Charlie Daniels Band - "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", live from the Seafood Festival!


Audio: Charlie Daniels Band - "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", live from the Seafood Festival!

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Organizers of the 10th annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival have deemed the event a big success.

Despite the rain early Saturday, Festival Chairman Janet Thayer said, although the final numbers are not in yet, it appears as if they have exceeded their attendance goal of 36,000 people.

"This was probably the best festival we’ve ever had," Thayer said. "Everything just went so smooth and easy. The rain did hamper us a little, but it was cleared up by the afternoon. We had a very good crowd. Everyone was upbeat and happy. The entertainment was great."

Thayer said she was especially pleased for the festival to thrive, seeing how the economy is going through a rough time. She said the carnival did very well, but people didn’t spend as much this year with the food vendors, which she said may be reflective of the economy.

At Friday’s opening ceremony, Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed urged festival goers to not let the economy get in the way of enjoying the county’s biggest annual event.

"Forget about the stock market," Burnsed said from the stage. "It closed at 4 p.m. and won’t open again until Monday morning. So just relax and enjoy the festival. It’s going to be a great one."

A survey of the crowd found folks had travelled from all the surrounding counties, and as far as Florida and South Carolina, to enjoy the annual festival.

When asked what brought their group to the festival, Ellabell residents Georgette Jones and Rhonda Sheffield disagreed. Jones claims "the shrimp and crawfish" was the draw for their group, while Sheffield said Charlie Daniels was the main reason for the cross county trip. Billy Gay, the youngest in the group, said they’re both wrong, and the carnival rides are the clear cut winner.

A long list of entertainment took the stage throughout weekend, from local dance studios to the RHHS and RHMS marching bands to the Swingin’ Medallions. The entertainment capped off on Saturday night with the Charlie Daniels Band.

With a set list that included "Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye," "Long Haired Country Boy," "The South’s Gonna Do It Again" and, of course, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," the excitement of the weekend event seemed to reach its peak, immediately followed by an elaborate fireworks display.

Richmond Hill Mayor Richard Davis caught up Daniels back stage, just prior to his performance. Davis presented Daniels with a key to the city as well as patch from Hunter Army Airfield.

"That patch was from Warrant Officer Edwards, who lives in Richmond Hill and was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield," Davis said. "He wanted so much to meet Charlie Daniels because he had been to a couple of his shows in Iraq. He would be here, but he is at Hunter right now, loading up to be deployed to Iraq at seven o’clock in the morning. He took that patch off his uniform, and he asked me to give it to Charlie and thank him for his support of the military."

Davis said, in this day and age where it’s almost fashionable for musicians to take a stand against the war in Iraq, he couldn’t be prouder to have Daniels top Seafood Festival bill.

"We’re right here at the back door to Fort Stewart, and we have a lot of soldiers in our city. We couldn’t have picked a better person to headline the city’s biggest annual event, for what he has done for the military, than Charlie Daniels. He is a true patriot in every sense of the word, and it’s just a shame that more entertainers cannot have the same outlook on our soldiers that he does."

Daniels set include numerous references to military pride, including a recital of the pledge of allegiance.

In spite of the large number of party goers that flock to the park, the number of incidents requiring police intervention is quite low, according to police chief Billy Reynolds. Police reports reflect only five recorded incidents in relation to the event: two DUI arrests, one report of vehicle damage from a festival parking sign, one Richmond Heights resident complaining of loud music and one public drunkenness arrest.

See the attached media links for a video and photo gallery of the festival as well as a live audio recording of the Charlie Daniels Band performing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", recorded live at the festival.

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