There I was standing on a chair in the middle of Main Street wanting to get a photo that illustrated the number of people attending the festival. It was overwhelming to watch, no empty spaces just a sea of faces as they made their way down the street.
That is how I remember the 37th Annual Flowertown Festival-- spending three days with 200,000 of my closest friends.
The Flowertown Festival is a fundraising event for the Summerville Family YMCA that features artists, vendors and non-profit groups. The event takes over Main Street and Azalea Park for three days as hundreds of thousands descend on the Flowertown in the Pines.
This festival almost turned into a mess as it poured all day on Thursday. Normally vendors get started early setting up booths and preparing for the festival. Instead they waited, and waited hoping the rain would stop or at least let up enough so they could carry everything to their booths. Realizing the rain was not going to stop, everyone covered their crafts and headed off into the rain-soaked park.
The grass had turned to mud, tents were collapsing and many were buying plywood to use as flooring. Vehicles had left ruts in the paths and soon many areas were impassable.
By Friday, the rain had stopped, the skies had cleared, but the mud remained. The park looked like a marsh.
Those who ventured into Azalea Park had no choice but to get muddy. Some wore boots but others were left jumping from one grassy patch to another hoping to avoid the inevitable.
Crews worked all morning draining the water, spreading sand and laying down plywood. Soon, booths were connected together by plywood paths.
Let the Festival Begin
By Friday afternoon, the lingering effects of the rain were gone as people filled the vendor booths and streets. The festival featured everything from lawn ornaments to clothing accessories and paintings. People jumped from booth to booth collecting bags of goodies.
One group of ladies laughed and hopped over puddles of mud as they hit their favorite booths. They said this is something they do every year together. They called it their annual date. Groups like that could be seen running around all weekend.
Some dragged the men along for the ride. By days end, most guys had their arms full of bags and oversized crafts. Imagine darting in and out of the crowds carrying all of that while trying not to hit anyone or drop anything.
One aspect of the festival I had a love/hate relationship with was the food vendors.
I volunteered to help set up the Journal Scene booth and stopped by there often throughout the day. The booth was across from all of the food vendors and all day long the smell of food followed the wind straight for our side of the street. It was torture, the aroma of food made me hungry all day. Even after eating, if I could smell the food, it made me hungry again.
The wind not only carried the sweet smell of food but the sound of music. From bagpipes to windpipes and a classic rock station, music was everywhere.
Out of 200,000 visitors, I believe 199,000 showed up on Saturday. I can't imagine where they parked or how they all fit into the festival but it was amazing to see. For those walking down Main Street, it was slow going dodging people, trash cans and golf carts. In the park it was not any better but at least there was shade. Some found shortcuts or used the sidewalks to get through but eventually everything was congested.
There were plenty of tired and sunburned people by the end of the day. Many carted their children in wagons or strollers. Those kids who walked were stuck staring as the backs of people all day as they followed their parents through the crowds.
In all of the chaos there were some moments of relaxation. Some found shaded areas to relax and eat. One friend of mine found a comfortable spot on a curb to people watch while her son took pictures. Even as crowded as the festival was, you could find a place to recharge.
By day three, exhaustion had set in and I did not want to go back out. Alas, I had been volunteered to help set up the Journal Scene booth and set out one last time to face the crowds.
Thankfully the clouds kept us cool and the crowds were smaller.
And like bookends to a weekend of perfect weather, the rain came again Sunday afternoon. Some left early while others found shelter and waited for the rains to end.
"Come get your free umbrellas and free ice cream," they yelled. Volunteers at the Journal Scene booth were no longer handing out newspapers to read but to be used as umbrellas in the rain. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.
At 4:00 p.m., like the water parting for Moses, the sea of people receded as the line of motorcycle cops drove down Main Street signaling the end of the Flowertown Festival.
And just like that, the frenzy of the festival was over.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.