Return festival to its roots

Published 1:11 am Friday, May 3, 2013

In a little more than a month, one of Washington’s signature festivals will make its annual appearance.


That’s right, Summer Festival is approaching fast. The Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the two-day event, is gearing up for the 2013 version of one of the city’s oldest festivals. There’s a lot of planning that goes into each festival; and as soon as one festival ends, the planning for the next festival begins.


The festival has seen changes through the years. For many years, the festival began Friday afternoon and concluded Sunday afternoon. In recent years, the festival has run for two days, Friday and Saturday. In its early years, most of the food and cold beverages were sold by area churches, nonprofit organizations and civic groups. The money they made from selling pizza, fish dinners, hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn and ice-cold soft drinks remained in the community to support programs and services offered to help improve the community.


Perhaps the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce should consider returning to those roots and rely less on commercial food vendors — which do have their places at the festival — and more on area nonprofits, churches and civic organizations. Such a movement began several years ago, in 2006 to be exact, but it needs to continue and be enhanced.


When the professional vendors leave town, so does the money they took in during the festival. As much of the money that festival-goers spend at the festival should stay in Washington.


To quote what we wrote several years ago: “It’s much better for a local resident’s money spent on two cheeseburgers, a large lemonade and two scoops of homemade banana ice cream to go toward a local civic club’s scholarship program that benefits area students than to pay travel costs for a leather-goods vendor to set up shop in the city for two days.
“Current area residents and people who grew up in the area, moved away and return for visits from time to time tended to spend a little more time at the booths run by local groups as they chatted and socialized with the vendors.
“More than money was exchanged at those booths. Friendliness and neighborliness was exhibited, too.
“Returning the festival to its roots may take another year or two, but it is worth the wait.”