Beaufort News

Thousands celebrate silver anniversary of Gullah Festival

Thousands flocked to Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on Saturday to celebrate Gullah history, heritage and culture and to remember a community leader who thought it was all worth celebrating.

Saturday marked the second day of the 25th annual Gullah Festival, an event started in 1986 as a way to celebrate Gullah and African-American culture and educate the public about its importance to the community.

David Thompson of Fayetteville, N.C. and his family made the trip down Interstate 95 to Beaufort this weekend in part to honor Rosalie Pazant, one of the festival's founders. Pazant died in September at age 93.

"All over the Carolinas, people know about this festival and what it represents," Thompson said. "That's a real testament to Ms. Pazant and those ladies who helped create this event. It really is a great showcase for our culture and our area."

The festival kicked off with an opening ceremony Friday night, and will conclude today with a performance by Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, a R&B band from Philadelphia. The festival runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. today.

Walking through a makeshift marketplace set up in the parking lot of the Downtown Marina of Beaufort, Harold Chandler of Charleston reminisced about his family's annual trip to Beaufort each year for the festival.

"We've been coming for about 10 years now," Chandler said. "It's a big deal to me and my kids. They understand how important events like this are and how important it is to remember where you came from and your own personal history. I hope this event is around 25 years from now and well into the future."

For many who attended Saturday, the food was the main attraction as vendors cooked up shrimp, fried fish and collard greens.

"I love seeing all of this people and being together like this but the food is really something else," said Sheryl Waldrop of Sheldon. "I look forward to eating like this every year."