GLOVERVILLE - The first of two sassafras festivals got under way in Horse Creek Valley on Friday with a gala carnival and lots of rides and treats for the whole family.
Spearheaded by Bobby Rutland, one of the organizers of the original Midland Valley/Horse Creek Valley Sassafras Festival held since 1995 in Burnettown, the Gloverville version of the event runs through today on the grounds of Gloverville Park.
"The festival is in Gloverville, but we want it to be a valleywide event, participated in by people from all over the valley," Mr. Rutland said.
The event celebrates the fruits of the indigenous Sassafras tree. The Burnettown festival is set for Oct. 7, with preliminary events including a softball tournament and beauty pageant scheduled earlier in the week.
But Gloverville's Horse Creek Valley Sassafras Festival goes full force today. The event is sponsored by the Gloverville Park Association, and proceeds will go toward park improvements.
The park, located between Pine and Hackney streets one block from South Carolina Highway 421, is under the umbrella of the Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department but largely has gone unused over a long period of time. Some improvements have already been made to the park, according to Billy Wilson, vice chairman of the association.
Lighting recently has been installed, and a new basketball court has been laid, Mr. Wilson said.
"We'd like to put in a soccer court and continue to improve the grounds of the park. Some of the proceeds will also be plowed back into next year's festival, but the main reason we're having the festival is for the kids and families of communities throughout Horse Creek Valley."
Members of the Park Association say they also are looking forward to helping other communities in Horse Creek Valley develop their own projects.
"Who knows, maybe next year there will be three Sassafras Festivals in the valley," said Glenda Wilson, treasurer of the association.
In the meantime, the plans in Gloverville today are for events that are fun for the whole family.
James Wright, the original Sassafras King, will again wear the crown, and his court will preside over festivities that include daylong live entertainment featuring local favorites such as Jason Sikes, Brian Randall as Elvis and the music of Bobby Hydrick. Other acts, such as the Southland Cloggers, will join gospel, bluegrass and jazz groups performing at the festival.
Crafters and a wide assortment of vendors will be on hand, and a variety of refreshments will be available for sale. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the park. Additional parking will be available in the First Baptist Church lot. Parking for the handicapped is at the Hackney Street entrance to the park.
Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895.