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How local festivals improve our quality of life

Posted: October 18, 2011 11:40 a.m.
Updated: October 19, 2011 5:00 a.m.

During a recent weekend, I attended the Rock Around the Clock Festival in Winnsboro.

As interim commander of the S.C. State Guard, I attended the festival with a small group of Guardsmen at the request of the town’s police department. Local law enforcement expected large crowds for the weekend, and because of limited resources it asked us to help with traffic control and public safety. (That’s one of the many functions of the State Guard, a uniformed but unpaid force of almost 1,000 volunteers.)

While there on patrol, it was an enjoyable opportunity to witness how events like this play an important role in a community’s quality of life. 

 I’ve always had a fondness for local festivals. The previous weekend, I’d attended the Irmo Okra Strut, and a couple of weeks before that it was the Chapin Labor Day Parade. They join the Gilbert Peach Festival, the Summerville Flowertown Festival, the Little Mountain Reunion in Newberry County, the Williamston Spring Water Festival, the Saluda Tractor Festival, the Pickens Azalea Festival, the Batesburg-Leesville Poultry Festival, the Florence Pecan Festival, the Beaufort Water Festival and many others that are relaxing and fun but that also serve a very important purpose.

Local festivals draw communities closer, help neighbors keep up with one another, and boost the local economy. They bring people together -- which is especially important during tough times such as these as the economy creates anxiety over the direction of our country and our personal financial well-being.

They often showcase local merchants, which is an especially valuable form of advertising for smaller “mom and pop” businesses with limited advertising budgets.

They offer the fun of a night on the town -- and allow people to get out of the house -- but without straining their family budgets. They provide the opportunity for adults and young people to mingle.

Quite importantly, many of these festivals also raise funds for charity or other worthy causes.

While a city is defined by its geographic boundaries, a community is defined by its people. Local festivals strengthen the community by connecting people and fostering feelings of goodwill among neighbors. They inspire community pride and encourage people to work together as a community. They demonstrate that our many differences pale in comparison to our many common bonds. In a very real way, they help improve the quality of life for all local residents.

These festivals are made possible by community volunteers who put in countless hours of hard work -- planning, putting up signs, distributing fliers, making phone calls, and keeping scheduled events on track -- often for little recognition.

 The next time you’re at your hometown’s special event -- whether a carnival, fair, parade or gala -- take a minute to look around and appreciate how it helps enrich your community’s quality of life. And perhaps and thank one of the volunteers whose time, devotion and sacrifice made it possible.

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