Azalea Festival recognized for ‘fanning the flame’

Pickens Mayor David Owens presents the “We Fan The Flame” award to Russ Gantt, chairman, and other members of this year’s Azalea Festival volunteer committee.

PICKENS — After 30 years of dedication and hard work, the Azalea Festival volunteer committee is receiving overdue recognition. It recently was presented the June We Fan The Flame award in a special ceremony at the new Pickens Amphitheater.

The Pickens Azalea Festival’s purpose has always been to showcase Pickens by conducting a two-day family-friendly, fun festival the third weekend in April that includes a unique auto cruise-in, arts and craft displays, great food and beverage, amusements and memorable entertainment.

The festival also offers more than 50 charitable organizations a special opportunity to raise funds. The 2013 event saw more than 35,000 people in attendance even as weather forced a one-day event. It continues to provide a positive economic impact on the community, and county, through an increase in sales for areas businesses, fund raising for many charitable organizations and great exposure to the city of Pickens as a whole.

The Azalea Festival had its beginnings in the spring of 1983 as a small, juried event called the Mountain Arts & Crafts Show.

It was organized by the Pickens Civitan Club and held in the north end of Pickens. Later that year, the then-current Chamber of Commerce President and Pickens Civitan Club founder, Ruth Swayngham Hinkle, had the vision to convince the Civitans to move the show to downtown and invite other non-profit groups to participate. Hinkle spoke of her vision at the annual Chamber banquet.

“I see many different organizations having activities on closed-off streets and parking lots all over town,” she said.

By enlisting the support of the Chamber as sponsor, the first Pickens Festival was held in 1984 as the Civitan Arts & Crafts Show with the Junior Assemble providing lemonade, the Jaycees donuts and the Chamber giving out information. Since that simple beginning, it has been an event that has grown every year in size and patronage.

We Fan The Flame recognizes group contributions that make Pickens a better place to live. It is presented by the Pickens Revitalization Association and the city of Pickens. The award program is open to any civic, school, charitable, religious, cultural, non-profit, business, senior youth, association or similar organization. Entries should be submitted to the PRA by the 15th of each month and will be considered throughout the year. Entry forms are available at