Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tobacco Festival should make big comeback next

The South Carolina Tobacco Festival is returning for its 53rd year in Lake City, although the schedule is leaner this year as a result of the economy. The decision to offer a scaled-down series of events for the 2009 festival, which will run from Sept. 18-20, was a conscious and unanimous one by the Greater Lake City Chamber of Commerce’s board.

In spite of the bleak economic scenery surrounding us, Lake City is fortunate to still have a festival, and an abbreviated schedule is a small sacrifice to make as our local businesses fight to stay alive.

One minor rumor was that the Tobacco Festival wasn’t happening at all this year. While it might not be totally identical to the Tobacco Festival we’re familiar with, several events are still planned, starting with the Street Dance the night of Sept. 18, a Friday. The event will feature the Band of Oz and will run from 8 p.m. to midnight.

The biggest changes to the festival’s schedule are the lack of a parade down Main Street as well as entertainment at the town square stage on Saturday, Sept. 19.

But that doesn’t mean you should just stay home that day; get up early and go support a good cause when the Florence Florence County Disabilities Foundation will hold “Lake City’s Largest Yard Sale” at its thrift shop at 219 N. Church St.

Also on Saturday, the festival beauty pageant will take place at the Blanding Street Auditorium, at 125 S. Blanding St.

Finally, on Sunday, the Lake City Country Club will hold a golf tournament.

The chamber of commerce already is making plans for next year’s festival.

“The hope is that we’ll be able to do it even bigger and better than in the past, and we’re even working on that now,” chamber Director Rita Smith said.

When the economy improves, we hope businesses will be able to resume their sponsorships of the festival. A large number of local businesses have been quite generous to the festival, as shown by the lists of contributors in previous years, so we have a good feeling that things will be looking up.

Smith said most people she’s spoken with have been understanding of the decision to scale back the festival this year. Many vendors have called to show interest in selling their goods at this year’s festival have asked Smith to keep them in mind for next year, she said.

With interest already mounting in the 2010 festival, an economic rebound would bring back a Tobacco Festival like those so many of us have regularly attended with our families.

And, as Smith said, it could be even bigger and better than before.

Festivals are good for the morale in towns and cities. They give residents a chance to have fun and take pride in their community.

The people of Lake City and the surrounding areas still have an opportunity to do that as the Tobacco Festival stays alive, and it’s something to be thankful for.