Tradition lives on

Gullah Festival born of founders' desire to educate

May 23, 2011 

  • The 25th annual Original Gullah Festival will be Friday through Sunday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort.

    There will be free admission for students and their chaperones for “Family Dayâ€

Beaufort County native Rosalie Pazant was a wife, a mother, a musician and a festival organizer. But most of all, she was an educator.

Charlotte Pazant Brown said her late mother's life revolved around educating others. Whether she was teaching her students at school, her own children at home or adults in the community, Pazant wanted to make sure people were always learning something new.

"She always used to say, 'You're never to old to learn,'<2009>" Brown said.

She said many years ago her mother wanted to coordinate some kind of celebration to bring people to Beaufort over Memorial Day weekend because it was such a quiet time in the area. So Brown, her mother, sisters and a friend organized a Gullah festival. They intended the Original Gullah Festival to serve many purposes -- to educate people about the Gullah culture, preserve the unique customs and provide entertainment.

"We wanted to educate people about the different things that you would find somehow related to the Gullah culture -- whether it was the t weaving or the fish netting or the Hoppin' John ... the things that make our lifestyle different from other places in the United States," Brown said.

Pazant served as co-founder and president of the festival until she passed away in September, two weeks shy of her 94th birthday.

But Pazant's passion for education and culture will live on. The 25th annual Original Gullah Festival will be held May 27 through 29 at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort. Organizers will present a tribute to Pazant on Saturday evening.

Brown has taken over her mother's role as president of the festival, educating people about the importance of preserving the rich Gullah heritage.

"There's so much more that still has yet to be discovered (about the Gullah culture)," Brown said. "It's part of our heritage and the part of education that (my mother) did not want to get lost."

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