Shuttles to mill add to Azalea Festival


PICKENS — With less than three weeks remaining before the Pickens Azalea Festival kicks off its 29th year, the committee responsible for the planning, organizing, and ensuring the two-day event runs smoothly continues to bring in new arts and crafts, and food vendors, and a variety of activities in hopes that each of the over 20,000 people expected to attend enjoy every moment they spend touring the fun-filled city streets.

According to Russ Gantt, coordinator of the festival, the family event will branch out again this year to offer visitors a unique opportunity to see another popular and historical site in Pickens County.

“Bowers Transportation Services” will be offering free shuttle bus tours to Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center for anyone wanting to visit this 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 water wheel 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 & Ann Street, beginning at 10 am until 3 pm, 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 begins Friday morning, April 19, with a live broadcast of WASP, Channel 7’s “Your Carolina with Jack Roper and Kimberly Kelly.” The popular show will be televised from the lawn of the Pickens County Courthouse, located on Pickens’ Main Street, Gantt said.

Later that evening, the 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.”

News Channel 7’s own news anchor Tom Crabtree, and his band, Rock and Roll Reunion will take Center Stage later Friday evening to perform such hits as Brown-eyed Girl, Soul Man, Satisfaction, Hey, Jude, Black Magic Woman, and a play list of other rock, blues and beach music.

The band, which has toured the area for the past 16 years with its classic sounds, consists of talented musicians who each once performed with other bands, thus earning their name, Rock and Roll Reunion.

Closing the Friday night event, The Tams, a 1960s Soul, Beach and Rhythm and Blues group originating in Atlanta, will perform their popular repertoire of songs including, Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy, What Kind of Fool, Silly Little Girl, and There Ain’t Nothing Like Shaggin’.”

The Tams, which still offers the smooth vocals of a founding band member, earned musical hit records for three decades, and their classic recordings remains popular today.

Saturday will present a different venue of 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, dance, 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 both the Center and West End Stages.”

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

Little Texas, a country band of God Blessed Texas, Kick A Little, and What Might Have Been fame, will end the 2013 Azalea Festival with a memorable concert on Center Stage, Gantt said.

“April 19-20 is going to be a great time to be in Pickens,” Gantt said. “The Azalea Festival will prove to be the best festival of its 29 years.” The Azalea Festival is sponsored by the Pickens Chamber of Commerce & Azalea Festival Committee. For information and a list of schedule of events visit the website