A beautiful day in the city

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2004

&uot;Saturday in the park… and yes, it was the GRITS Festival…people laughing, children dancing, a real celebration…&uot;

My apologies to the legendary pop group Chicago, but I simply had to borrow one of their greatest hits and do a touch of paraphrasing.

Last Saturday in Confederate Park, in the heart of the Camellia City, the first Greenville GRITS Festival was held.

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I suspect it won’t be the last.

The sky was a brilliant blue, the clouds as fluffy as the free cotton candy being spun for the kiddies (and kids at heart) and an occasional breeze tossed a few autumn leaves through the air. Other than wishing for a drop in the very warm temperatures, you couldn’t have ordered a more picture-perfect day.

Throngs of people turned out for the event, which offered what many who tried them claimed were &uot;some of the best grits they had ever had.&uot; (Kudos to Steve Stallworth for turning out to be one excellent grits stirrer. Who knew?)

There was live music – adults got a kick out of watching the little ones boogie down to Southern Comfort’s toe-tapping tunes – and plenty of excited shrieks were heard as youngsters braved the giant slide, one of the new and very well-received slate of children’s activities added to the former Oktoberfest.

I watched my boss’s daughter, Maggie, arrive at the top of the slide and look down with a distinct trepidation. Finally she summoned up the courage and took the plunge. About midway down a delighted grin spread across her little face. &uot;The kids ALWAYS love the slide,&uot; one of the operators later told me.

Old favorites returned: there was magic and laughter in the air courtesy of Gary Ledbetter and a thrilling taste of the Old West from that handsome couple, Bruce and Varnelle Brannen.

&uot;Bruce and I teach together…I tell him, ‘Why don’t you retire and do this full time? He truly loves it and he’s great at it,’&uot; Carol Connally-Walters told me as we watched cowboy Bruce perform astride his beloved horse, Smoke.

Two of Alabama’s most talented and funny women, Mobile’s Phyllis Wingard and Beverly Haney, returned with their tent and a wonderful new tale of &uot;Piggie Pie&uot;. This clever duo ingeniously worked our fair city into the storytelling – and I suspect we adults enjoyed their yarns just as much as the kids did. What a treat it was to see these ladies again.

We all discovered a major talent in Butler County native Matt Shepherd, who sounded as if he should have a record playing on Q-94. Matt and his cousin, guitarist, Tim Millergren performed as &uot;Cousins Two&uot;, an apropos name of which southern historian and genealogical enthusiast Annie Crenshaw heartily approved. She helped Barbara Middleton man a booth for the local historical society and the ladies told me they sold tons of the BCHGS’s new cook book during the festival.

&uot;Hasn’t this just been a fabulous day?&uot; Annie said with a grin.

I totally agree. GRITS was just grand. Congrats to Nancy Idland and her wonderful team of volunteers for working so hard to put together a family-friendly event all ages could enjoy.

Angie Long is a Lifestyles writer and columnist for The Greenville Advocate. She may be contacted at home by phone at 382-5145.