Originally created 10/03/04

October starts with festivals food and fun



One week after the blustery winds and drenching rains of Hurricane Jeanne threatened the Augusta area, festival organizers welcomed Saturday's summerlike weather that accompanied October's first weekend.

Tommy Keller, an organizer of the annual Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, said pleasant weather is important for his event.

"Remarkably great weather, that dictates our success," said Mr. Keller about the downtown festival at the church's parking lot on Telfair Street.

Other area festivals Saturday included the Oktoberfest celebration at Fort Gordon's Barton Field and the 16th annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem, honoring the town's native actor, Oliver Hardy, and his farcical sidekick, Stan Laurel.

The three-day Greek Festival has become a local favorite since its meager beginning 20 years ago at a south Augusta shopping plaza, Mr. Keller said.

"They made about $200 then," he said. Organizers are expecting to draw more than the 28,000 people who attended last year, said Mr. Keller's wife, Mary.

Along with live entertainment featuring Nick Trivelas and the Aegeans and the Troupe Hellas dance company of Atlanta, the festival attracts those who enjoy authentic Greek food.

Timothy Hattaway and his wife, Marie, said the festival provided them with a chance to revisit life as it used to be, before the birth of their three children.

"We're having a great time," said Mr. Hattaway, noting that his parents offered baby-sitting services for the couple.

Brian and Suzanne Moon brought Garrett, 3, and Lucy Claire, 16 months, to the event.

"It's family-friendly and reasonably priced," said Mr. Moon, a west Augusta resident.

Over at Fort Gordon, friends Krista Wojtaszek and Denise Carpenter enjoyed the sights and sounds at the 3rd annual Oktoberfest on Saturday morning.

Mrs. Wojtaszek, who is a Pennsylvania native of German heritage, said she especially enjoyed the foods provided by the German Friendship Club, including bratwurst, apple strudel and German potato salad.

Both women's husbands are in the Army. Mrs. Carpenter said Oktoberfest benefits families and spouses such as Mrs. Wojtaszek, whose husband, Capt. Carl Wojtaszek, is serving in Iraq.

"It brings the community to the base, and it's support for military families," Mrs. Carpenter said.

The German Friendship Club of Augusta helped sponsor what is now the CSRA's only Oktoberfest, Ms. Pondy said.

The Oliver Hardy Festival transformed Harlem to the delight of Laurel and Hardy fans.

"This is my first time coming," said Kevin Christensen, of Salt Lake City, who came with his wife, Nan.

Mrs. Christensen said the event was something the couple have been looking forward to for a long time.

"This is something we couldn't miss," she said. "Kevin is an aficionado of silent films. We know Laurel and Hardy are famous for their talkies, but also for their silent films."

Janine Hardy said she comes to the festival every year.

"It's nostalgic," said the Harlem resident, who also said she is a descendant of the Oliver Norvell Hardy lineage.

Across the Savannah River, South Carolina's Highway 421 was awash with tents, hawking everything from homemade wreaths to fresh baked goods at the 10th annual Sassafras Festival.

Dozens of hot rods were on display. A gospel band played twangy songs about communion and family. And a crowd estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 enjoyed horse rides and petting zoos, Christian wrestling, food vendors, line dancing and carnival rides.

Alison Cheeks and Chris Powell have been going to the event for the past few years.

"You just get to see a lot people; see what's going on," Ms. Cheeks said

Staff writers Quandra Collins and Josh Gelinas contributed to this report.

If you go

Oktoberfest: Noon to 7 p.m. today at Fort Gordon's Barton Field. Wristbands for rides cost $15. For more information, call 791-6779

Greek Festival: Noon to 6 p.m. today at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 953 Telfair St. The event is free. For more information, call 724-1087.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.