BY JAMISON GUICE

Mark your calendar for the 2021 Okefenokee Festival set for this Saturday and Sunday along downtown Main Street. The two-day event will be full of family fun and local entertainment.

Saturday events

Dana O’Quinn, Executive Director for the Okefenokee Chamber of Commerce, outlined a host of events on Saturday including a car show with registration beginning at 8:00 a.m. The car show is sponsored by Reliant Logistics LLC and Carl Guinn’s Hotrods; the show will feature custom, classic and vintage cars and even some special categories. Participants who place will win trophies and the overall winner will recieve a cash prize. The show will be larger than in previous years, so keep on the lookout for new entries. Show awards will be presented at the main stage at 2 p.m.

The Okefenokee Festival Parade will officially open the festival at 10:00 a.m. According to Natalie Newvine, chairwoman for the parade committee, many school clubs have agreed to participate. The Band of Pride, Charlton County High School’s football team, honor court and homecoming court will show up and show out. Local businesses like Hopkins-Gowen Oil and United First Federal Credit Union will also make an appearance.

This year, Sheriff Robert Phillips was named the parade’s Grand Marshal. The title and position are granted to someone who exemplifies service and true community spirit. In past years, other Grand Marshals included community leader Lawanda Jones and American icon Smokey Bear.

“I’m all about community and the fact that this community chose me, makes me feel a sense of pride,” exclaimed Phillips. “I love Charlton County. I’ve lived here all my life and I want the best for our hometown.”

Food trucks and other vendors also open up around 10:00 a.m., so attendees can grab a quick bite before watching the grand parade. Many of the vendors are local and will be selling T-shirts, tumblers, crafts and homemade foods. Out-of-town vendors like Hook’d Up Apparel will also be there.

Here is a sneak peak into some of the event’s vendors:

•Allen’s Southern BBQ

•Dianna Palmer Wreaths/Bows

•Busy Momma Bath Products

• Honeysuckle Station

• Gator Man

• Lawson Peach Shed

• Linda’s Face Painting

• Mini & Modern

•Spangler’s Custom Woodworking

•The Magnolia & Pine Co.

•Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1070

“There will be a mix of long-time vendors and new vendors to the festival who heard about our festivities and wanted to join the festivities,” O‘Quinn said.

Kids can look forward to a free airbrush face-painting station from noon to 3:00 p.m. and an entertainment zone that is open on both days. The zone is not free, but all-day wristbands are available or games can be purchased by the play. It will be located between the Whistling Dixie Cafe and the Johnny Appleseed Organics Office (the old South Georgia Timber Company building).

O’Quinn mentioned the zone will include laser tag, paintball, inflatable slides and much more. The zone does not have an age restriction, so anyone can play games to blow off some steam.

Live music will perform the rest of the afternoon. Artists include Full Moon Folk, Jay Bone and Friends, Scott Birchall, SaraLisa Conner and Man Apart.

Sunday events

Sunday kicks off at 9 a.m. with the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge’s first-ever Walk for the Wild. The non-competitive walk totals 3.1 miles, and it is meant to celebrate Okefenokee’s wildlife. The walk travels down a portion of the refuge’s Swamp Island Drive. Also, Sunday is a free fee day at the refuge, so take the family and explore the swamp.

Vendors and food trucks open at 11:00 a.m. in the same location as the day before, with entertainment at 11:30 a.m. Sunday’s artist will focus more on Christian and spiritual values, according to O’Quinn. The Cherokee of Georgia will headline the show with drum songs, flutists and a round dance. Solo artists and bands follow shortly after, playing until around 4 p.m. when the festival concludes.

O’Quinn stated that Sunday is an opportunity for Folkston’s business owners to get out and explore what all the festival has to offer. Since many brick-and-mortar shops remain open on Saturday, Sunday allows them a time to enjoy the festivities with their family.

“The entire event is really a family-friendly fun day, but Sunday is a wonderful day to gather up as a community and enjoy the day and have your after-church lunch and enjoy it together,” O’Quinn said. “We’ll have tables rolled out in the street and there are benches all along the streets to enjoy the beauty of our downtown.”

O’Quinn encourages guests to enjoy the Jesse A. Crews, Sr. park to its fullest and to embrace the festival’s open space. For any guests worried about COVID-19, O’Quinn said festival attendees will not be required to wear masks since The Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not require a mandate. She advises everyone to take advantage of the festival’s open space.

Also, the Department of Health will administer COVID-19 vaccines on both days, and there will be a number of giveaways to be found throughout. For example, Charlton County Republican Women’s Club will raffle off a Traeger Pro 575 Pellet WIFI Grill on Sunday. It is $10 to buy a ticket. Also, Twin Pines Minerals will be giving away a shotgun and 2 gift baskets so be sure to stop by their booth and several other vendors will be raffling off items.

Continue to stay up to date with events by following the Okefenokee Chamber of Commerce on Facebook or visit the Chamber’s website at https://okefenokeechamber.com.