October 15, 2012 Little River, SC – The eighth annual fall Little River ShrimpFest was held this past weekend under clear skies and mild temperatures. While the crowds never reached the level of the World Famous Little River Blue Crab Festival, the attendance was steady. People had their wallets open and the ninety or so vendors were pleased.
Those that came for the music were not disappointed. Organizers set up two stages and festival-goers settled in to hear the Party Favor Band featuring Top Forty and Motown, the Dino Capone's School of Rock playing anything from AC/DC to Lead Zeppelin, the Austin Mowery band with country music, Randy McQuay putting out funk and soul and The Stooges Brass Band playing a funky jazz sound.
Cathy Altman, event organizer, said, “We got rave reviews from people that attended. Everyone seemed to like the variety, the diversity of music.”
Among all this activity, the children are not forgotten. ShrimpFest had a children’s area with pony rides, bouncy house, face painting and lots, lots more. Kyler Gage Wilson, age two, came to his first festival from Conway. He and his family had just moved from Eton, North Carolina and were checking out the family entertainment in the area. “We are really having a good time,” said his mom.
Nearby children were lining up behind a clown named “Ha Ha” who was painting faces and shaping balloons for crowds of Kids.
We stopped by and talked to Nicole Singleton of 31 Main Gifts from Conway. 31 Main sells a line of women’s accessories like bags, purses, stationery, totes and wallets – many of which Singleton had on display. She had a booth just beside the kid’s area and the location turned out to be a gold mine for her. “Customer traffic has really been good. I’ve been going to Aynor Hoedown, the Swing Bridge Festival at Surfside and the River Walk. Much better, more purchases. People are stopping, looking and purchasing.”
BBG Designs and Décor, from Clemmons, NC, was set up at the far end of the festival, below Crab Catchers -normally not a hot spot for vendors. However, Linda Goldston said, “We have been doing this for three years. We do about five a year including The Blue Crab Festival, The Oyster Festival and the Festival by the Sea at Holden Beach. This is our first time here and it has been a good festival for us. It compares favorable with the one at Holden Beach. Nothing can compare with the Oyster Festival – when 55,000 people come through there. We were a little concerned with the location but traffic and sales has been steady. We will make our costs and are in the plus. We will probably come back.”
Unique to the Gullah communities of coastal South Carolina and Georgia, notably Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, is a craft passed down through generations. Made of native sweetgrass, longleaf pine needles and bound by palmetto each basket is uniquely a work of art. Among the vendors at the festival, Ida Bennett stood out for her artistry and longevity. She came from Mt. Pleasant, SC for the fourth year to this festival. For forty years or more Ida has been weaving sweetgrass baskets and with her was her daughter-in-law Henrietta Bennett. “When she married my son, I taught her to weave. She has been making sweetgrass baskets for 25 years now and is teaching her daughter. My granddaughter is the seventh generation to make sweetgrass baskets.” Ida was pleased with the festival saying that sales have been good and she is making a profit.
Echoing the sense of the vendors we talked with, Altman said, “Vendors, across the board, were pleased with their results. Seven have already signed up for next year.”
On Sunday, the festival held a shrimp and grits cooking contest judged by Cecil Chandler TV Host, Ed Piotrowski WPDE Newschannel 15's Chief Meteorologist, and Maddie Hunt, Young Ms. North Myrtle Beach. People’s Choice Award and Judges both selected Captain Jules Hurricane Restaurant as the best shrimp and grits out of competing entries from the Surf Club and the Key West Crazy Restaurant.
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