Local

Gullah Festival offers food, fun -- and culture

A member of the Yoruba Dancers, part of the Yoruba Drummers and Dancers from the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, entertained a large and enthusiastic crowd with an authentic African dance at the Gullah Festival Saturday at Beaufort's Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
A member of the Yoruba Dancers, part of the Yoruba Drummers and Dancers from the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, entertained a large and enthusiastic crowd with an authentic African dance at the Gullah Festival Saturday at Beaufort's Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

Rows of cars, large tour buses and RVs lined Bay Street on Saturday as more than 1,000 people flocked to Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to celebrate Lowcountry history, heritage and culture.

It was the second day of the Gullah Festival, an event founded 24 years ago as a way to celebrate Gullah and African-American culture and educate the public about its importance to the community.

Sitting in a folding chair in the shade of a large tree on the shores of the Beaufort River, Robert and Cheryl Garrison of Summerville said the event has become a Memorial Day "given."

"This goes on our calendar every year," Cheryl Garrison said as reggae music played in the distance. "The festival feels like a celebration of all the things that make the Lowcountry so great -- the food, the music, the culture, that close-knit sense of community. This is who we are."

The festival officially kicked off with an opening ceremony Friday night and will conclude this afternoon with a performance by The Manhattans, an R&B group from New York City.

A makeshift marketplace was erected for the festival in the parking lot of the Downtown Marina of Beaufort where vendors sold arts, crafts, clothing and a number of down-home delicacies including red rice, fried fish and collard greens.

For many Saturday, the food was the star of the show.

"What's the best part of this festival? What do you think?" said Denika Berry of Seabrook as she feasted on fried catfish. "I told my husband, 'Don't even mention the word 'diet' around me today.'"

For others, the festival presents a chance to see distant relatives and old friends.

"There are folks that we don't get to see but once a year at the Gullah Festival," said Richard Hendricks of Yemassee. "It's a very special event that brings together so many people from so many places to celebrate our roots as a people."

  Comments