Azalea Festival approaching

PICKENS — With less than a month remaining before the Pickens Azalea Festival kicks off its 32nd year, the committee responsible for the planning, organizing and ensuring the two-day event runs smoothly continues to bring in new arts and crafts, food vendors and a variety of activities in hopes that each of the more than 20,000 people expected to attend enjoy every moment they spend touring the fun-filled city streets.

3-30 Page 1A.inddAccording to festival executive director Russ Gantt, the family event will again branch out this year to offer visitors a unique opportunity to see another popular and historical site in Pickens County.

“Grace United Methodist Church and Bowers Transportation Services will again be offering free shuttle bus tours to Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center for anyone wanting to visit the site and participate in the activities occurring there,” Gantt said. “It will be a great opportunity to see Hagood Mill and to get a feel on how folks lived before electricity and other modern conveniences.”

Hagood Mill, an operating gristmill that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in around 1825 and is one of the oldest working mills in South Carolina. Visitors can experience varying arts and crafts of that period, as well as folk life and living history demonstrations, including blacksmithing, cotton ginning, moonshining and open-hearth cooking, in addition to a myriad of traditions native to that century.

The mill’s 20-foot waterwheel is not only the largest in the state, it is also the only one made of wood. Visitors are welcome to tour the grounds, cabins, home, activities and then enjoy a musical performance, held each third Saturday of the month.

Shuttles to the Hagood Mill Historic Site will leave the Azalea Festival grounds at the corner of Main Street and Ann Street from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. during the festival, Gantt said.

“We hope that everyone takes advantage of this chance to see this site that carries so much importance to the history of Pickens County,” Gantt said.

The Azalea Festival will begin Friday evening, April 15, with the annual Classic Car Cruise-In on Main Street. Area streets will be shut down to regular traffic while vehicles of all makes and models line the roadway.

“The Car Cruise-In is a fun way to introduce our kids to the cars we once drove when we ourselves were younger — a lot younger,” Gantt said. “Owners of these classics have put a lot of effort into returning their vehicles to their original grandeur.”

To kick the musical offerings off on Friday night will be the group New Dixie Storm at 6 p.m. on the main stage, located next to the Pickens County Courthouse.

Headlining Friday night’s main stage will be the group Jukebox 45. Billed as Greenville’s No. 1 oldies band, the group brings memories of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s to the stage.

Beginning at 10 a.m. with opening ceremonies on Saturday will present a different venue to the Azalea Festival, as the main thoroughfare in Pickens remains closed to vehicular traffic so artists and craftsmen, a variety of food and refreshment vendors and many scheduled entertainment events, including music, comedy and a pet pageant, replace the classic cars of the night before, Gantt said.

“Our goal is to grow the festival, and this year will prove to be the biggest and best yet,” he said. “Folks can visit the many arts and crafts booths, maybe discovering that unique item for their home or a gift, try an ice cream cone, cotton candy and funnel cake, and enjoy a good lunch or early dinner. And all the while they can listen to music on the main stage next to the Pickens County Courthouse.”

The men and women of the Pickens Fire Department will be bringing back grilled hamburger plates during the festival, Gantt said.

Legacy Square will be home to amusement rides during the two-day event.

The Extraordinaires will headline Saturday night’s entertainment on the main stage.

“April 15 and 16 is going to be a great time to be in Pickens,” Gantt said. “The Azalea Festival will prove to be the best festival now in its 32nd year.”

For more information and a schedule of events, visit