Saturday was an absolutely stunning day. The air was dry and clear, and the sky was so blue that even cerulean doesn’t do it justice. There was no way that I was going to waste this on the huge stack of chores and yard work I had waiting for me at home. So, I decided a photo drive was needed. Several communities in the Upstate were having festivals this weekend, so I decided to check out a couple of them. I was actually able to hit four festivals – the Issaqueena Festival in Six Mile, the Banjo Bonanza at Hagood Mill in Pickens, the Strawberry Festival in Slater, and finally the Greek Festival at St. George Orthodox in Greenville.
I hadn’t really planned to visit this many festivals. It’s just the way it turned out. I had planned to head west, and if I got to Six Mile, then I’d drop in. With that in mind, I first road over to Easley. I drove by my Mecca – the home of Perception Kayaks, then I drove into the downtown area. A big race was underway, so traffic was tied up, and photography opportunities were not to be had. Wanting to stay away from four-lane roads as much as possible, I took Highway 93 out of Easley through Liberty and Norris, then turned north toward Six Mile.
Issaqueena Festival at Six Mile
Things were just getting started at Six Mile. I parked in a grassy field set aside for the purpose, and walked over to the main street of the little town. People had already begun to gather, and performers were doing a sound check on the stage on one end of town. The street was lined with picnic canopies set up as booths.
There were a few vendor booths – some carved wood objects, various crafts, etc. Many of the booths were set up by local churches providing refreshments. Of these, most offered their wares for “free”, provided you made a small donation. There was even a booth were you could get airbrushed tattoos. It amazed me to see young kids sporting these – I guess as a foretaste of things to come.
The largest vendor was Dixie Outfitters. You could get the Confederate Battle Flag embossed on just about any surface imaginable. There were also items with the John Deere logo and other Southern or country icons. One patron proudly displayed his Rebel Flag motif fuzzy dice. I’m sure those were bound for a pickup truck somewhere.
At the opposite end of the street from the stage was a car show. There some beautiful classic cars there, including a 1964 Shelby Cobra, a 50’s vintage pink Caddilac Fleetwood, complete with fins, and a wide collection of muscle cars. The cars were parked close together, and this seemed to be the most popular part of the festival, so I wasn’t able to get as many clear shots as I would like.
The most amusing car was a dirt racer with a Dale Earnhardt styled number 3 on the side with an important variation. Instead of just the three, it had :16 in superscript, with the word “John” above. Apparently this dirt racer was sponsored by a local Baptist church, which also advertised its summer Bible School on the side of the car.
As I was snapping pictures, a woman came up to me and asked, “Are you a Photographer?” I was tempted to reply, “No, I just carry this heavy camera for exercise,” but I didn’t. I just said yes. She then asked if I were with the festival, to which I replied no. For her third question, she asked if I was there to take pictures of the children. I figured something other than a monosyllabic response was needed, so I explained, that no, I would not be taking pictures of children. In this day and age, parents tend to get nervous when a stranger takes pictures of their kids.
As I walked back through the festival, I focused on the people. These were country folk, and the festival catered to their tastes, pretty much in this order: church, Southern Heritage, race cars, and military and firefighter appreciation. Two characters wandered by wearing “wife-beater” shirts, with their hats cocked to one side. They were hardly sixteen years old, and one sported Rebel Flag tattoos on both shoulders – one reading “Redneck” and the other “Gamecocks”. He had a big chaw of tobacco in his mouth, and looked like a walking cliche’. These two were followed around by a couple of silly teenage girls who fawned other them. One of these had a cell phone that was playing some country tune on its speaker.
I wandered on back toward the other end of the street where performers were getting started. I passed by a man who had set up a table without a canopy. He was sitting in the hot sun, trying to sell books of religious poetry he had written and even bound himself. On the stage itself was a trio from a local church singing Gospel music. At this point, I decided it was time to move on.
Back at my car, and with my maps out, I noticed that I could hit all of the festivals that I had seen. I decided to skip the Civil War Battle of Central re-enactment, despite its photographic potential, but would take a route back through Pickens and Slater to hit the festivals there, and eventually head back to Greenville. So, I took 183 eastward, drove through Pickens, and then north on Highway 176 to Hagood Mill.
Banjo Bonanza at Hagood Mill
About once a month Hagood Mill has live music and historical demonstrations. This month’s was called the Banjo Bonanza for some reason, although I only saw a couple of banjos, and didn’t really hear any. The mill was in production, and one could purchase stone-ground grits and flour. I watched demonstrations of chair-caning, quilting, and blacksmithing.
I noticed several people carrying the same model of camcorder with the exact same type of bag. I figured they had to be together. At first I thought it was some high school class, but it turns out that it was an extension course from Clemson on videography. I spoke with a couple of the participants, and it sounded like an interesting class.
Since I had my itinerary set, I didn’t stay too long at Hagood. I continued north on 176 until I got to Highway 288, which I intended to take straight through Pumpkintown to Slater. As I drove along, I caught glimpses of Table Rock, and decided I had to get a clear shot. I took Carrick Creek Road over to Highway 11, and pulled off the road to take several shots of mountain.
Back in the car, I took Highway 11 to 276, then south into the Slater-Marietta area. Following the signs, I turned into the Slater Mill area and found the Strawberry Festival in full swing.
Slater Strawberry Festival
The Slater Strawberry Festival was laid out around the Slater Community Center. Apart from the mill, the community center is the most prominent building in the village. It sits high on a hill and is ringed with a street. It’s a beautiful two-story Greek Revival structure, but is dire need of renovation.
As at Slater, picnic canopies covered tables selling arts and crafts. The diversity was a bit greater here, but there were still a few Rebel flags to be found. I watched part of the Miss Strawberry Festival proceedings. The Tiny Miss division was in full swing, highlighting little girls ages 2 – 4. A bit young for pageants, I thought.
There were several food vendors set up on one side of the community center. Since it was lunch time, I bought several tickets and used them to get some Jamaican Jerk BBQ and four chocolate-dipped strawberries. I was going to get more strawberries, but I needed tickets for those, too. Thus sated, I decided to move on.
In Travelers Rest, I stopped briefly at Sunrift Adventures and lusted over their kayaks and gear, then headed on into downtown Greenville. The Greek Festival was in full swing, and parking was a challenge. I found a place, then walked on over.
The Greek Festival
When I first got there I walked straight to the entrance of St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral. I’d never been inside, and this was my opportunity. I caught the tale end of a tour, and admired the beautiful iconography and artwork inside. I decided this was not the place to pull out a camera and start snapping. When the tour started to head downstairs, I parted and wandered out to the festival proper.
The church’s parking area was full of tents. Food and music were the main draws. There was a stage set up with amphitheater seating, and when I arrived Greek music was coming from loudspeakers. In the booths, the one selling Gyros had multiple long lines. I wandered on around. I found one selling souvlaki that wasn’t crowded, and decided I had to have a taste. I got a small skewer of pork souvlaki with bread. By this time a trio had taken the stage and were singing Greek pop songs. I took my pork skewer and sat on one of the amphitheater steps.
In the church’s education building one could purchase full Greek dinners as well as pastries. I joined the line and purchased several pastries to take home for dessert later. By this time, I was just about festival-ed out. I headed on home.