By: Rebecca Cross, Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. – An estimated 50,000 people flooded downtown Florence on Saturday to enjoy food, games, music, fellowship and vendors at the 14th annual Pecan Festival.
The festival spread through nine square blocks of downtown Florence, and attendees said that everywhere they turned there was something new to see, hear and do.
“It’s all-around fun and a family atmosphere,” said Lasheena Douglas. “Everyone can take something out of it.”
Douglas is a regular attendee at the Pecan Festival.
“It’s positive to see a variety of people come together, sharing fun and experiencing different activities and foods,” Douglas said.
For Kathy Ham, sharing her culinary talent has consistently drawn her out to the festival. This was her 14th year participating in the cooking competition, and she won three awards for her pecan dishes, including the overall award from Duke’s Mayonnaise.
“I take this contest very seriously, and I try to choose unique recipes with great presentations,” Ham said. “I very much appreciate the people who sponsor this contest and am grateful for the work they do.”
Duke’s Mayonnaise sponsored the cooking competition as it concluded a 100th anniversary tour at the Pecan Festival.
Musicians and dancers performed on stages throughout downtown, offering attendees a constant stream of entertainment. Beach music, jazz, blues, country and gospel were just some of the music genres represented at the festival.
Young performers gained confidence as they shared their talents with a large crowd. While Trinity Stewart has performed at other festivals with Extreme Cheer and Tumble, this was the teen’s first time taking the stage at the Pecan Festival.
“It’s enjoyable to see everyone’s reactions,” Stewart said. “All the little kids adore you.”
Visiting vendors joined with local vendors to offer more than 250 food and craft booths.
For Julia Hill-Montgomery, the dedicated attendees always make it worth the trip from Easley to sell her handmade soaps and crocheted items at the Pecan Festival.
“I love the crowds,” Hill-Montgomery said. “They come out rain or shine. I didn’t know Florence had so much to do.”
Smiles were wide as children played games, bounced on inflatables, carried balloon creations and met super heroes in the Kids Fun Zone. Activities were at no expense to parents’ pockets, another feature that Lasheena Douglas said keeps her coming back to the festival and bringing her daughter.
A new STEM Zone was adjacent to the Kids Fun Zone, offering more free activities from leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.
Jim Frederick, a professor at Clemson University, oversaw the construction and flight of paper airplanes. Through Clemson’s “Nature of Flight”-themed activities, Frederick said leaders wanted to engage students in intellectual conversations.
“It challenges them to see the science and math behind these fun challenges,” Frederick said.
The Pecan Festival has been held on the first Saturday of November each year since its inception in 2003.