Throwing a snowball was not something 6-year-old James Kelly was expecting to do this year. He’s used to a brown-and-green Southern Christmas, not a white one.
On Sunday, however, Kelly spent almost three hours in a large-scale snowball fight with hundreds of other children at the inaugural Columbia County Snow Festival in Evans Towne Center Park.
“This is the best day of my life,” he excitedly told his mother, Belinda Kelly.
Belinda Kelly said the family didn’t know what to wear to the festival, since snow clothing was not something they had.
“We decided layers would have to work,” Belinda Kelly said. “We started with long underwear and ended in rain coats.”
The Snow Festival was an idea its promoter, Joe Mullins, said he had seen over the summer in Daytona. He figured if they could do it in 90-degree weather, he should be able to make it a Christmas event in Georgia.
The idea was more successful than he imagined.
Tickets were sold out by early Sunday afternoon and lines were wrapping around the park.
“We didn’t expect this big of a pull (with the snow),” Mullins said. “When Bruster’s runs out of ice cream in the winter, you know it was a big day.”
Around 11:30 a.m., two semi-trucks arrived, full of ice to be ground into snow.
There was a pile for snowball fights and a snow-packed slide with a small jump at the end. Kids and adults shot down the slide in inner tubes.
Santa, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman and even the Grinch made appearances. Local bands played from the Lady Antebellum Pavilion.
Even afternoon clouds and light rain could not drive away the hundreds who flocked to the park.
“We had way more people than we anticipated,” said Millie Robinson, the events coordinator for the Golden Harvest Food Bank, one of the organizations to receive some of the proceeds. “But how many of these kids have ever seen snow?”
Mullins said the reception was so good it would be back next year, but bigger. The plan is to hold it over a few days, bring in more snow so lines will be shorter and add an ice-skating rink.
“We wanted to bring the community a Christmas event,” he said. “It seems they wanted one.”