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Organizers consider new layout at festival

Nancy Parsons
April 7, 2015

The News & Reporter

He wakes up thinking about it. He goes to bed thinking about it. And if you ask Alex Walters, he'll probably tell you that he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about it.

It's the Flopeye Fish Festival!

Walters took on the role as chairman of the Flopeye Fish Festival last year. It was a new experience - a challenge and a learning experience.

And it was tiresome, Walters said.

Walters unselfishly gave his time and efforts to see the annual Memorial Day weekend festival continue. He didn't want to see the celebration come to an end.

Walters, Kathy Hinson and Todd Wright formed a committee and went to work. Just as former Chairperson Sallie Hudson and her group of supporters did, the newly organized committee worked for hours on end. They received no pay.

"It's all volunteer work," Walters said. "No one is paid"

It's that type of volunteer spirit and love for the town that brings about a successful festival.

"I think we did good," Walters said. "It came out positive. We had some glitches but nothing major. We had a few trial and error mistakes."

Overall, Walters said he is proud of the work the committee did.

Planning a festival doesn't start a month or two before the event. Planning for the next festival starts as soon as the current event is over, Walters said.

"We started pre-planning as soon as last year's was over," Walters said. "Once you stop, you start right back up. It takes a lot of time."

"We really boosted efforts and setting things in stone in January."

Walters said it is not unusual to devote nine hours a day to planning the festival.

He said Hudson continues acting as a coach and in an advisory capacity.

"She tells me what's right and what's wrong, what will work and what won't work," he laughed.

The 2015 festival was attended by nearly 9,000 people, Walters said.

The 32nd annul Flopeye Fish Festival will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. May 23 in the field in front of Morcon on U.S. Highway 21/S.C. Highway 200.

Carnival games and rides will be available Friday and Saturday and will remain open until 8 p.m. on the day of the festival.

Walters said the committee decided to try a different layout this year and hope to move the entertainment stage to allow for easier traffic flow. In order to get to the carnival area, you will have to walk through the festival area, he said.

Barricades will be set up in the carnival area for safety concerns. Parking near the roadway beside the carnival will be for festival workers and handicapped individuals, Walters said.

The festival offers free parking and admission. Parking will be available in the field across the street, Walters said.

Vendors have already signed up to sell at the festival. Walters said barbecue and fair-type concessions such as hot dogs and corn dogs are already on the list. He expects more vendors to commit before the festival.

The deadline to sign up is May 15. Applications are available online at www.flopeyefishfestival.com. There is no charge for non-profit groups to sell at the festival unless they wait until after the deadline to sign up, Walters said.

"Then there will be a processing fee," he said.

Vendors selling craft items are also needed.

"They're coming in slow," Walters said. "We've got five so far."

Veteran entertainment organizer Fish Pate will once again head up entertainment for the festival.

Walters said bands will be playing throughout the day and Ruthie's Rockers are scheduled to appear on stage.

"I'd like to get some more dancers," he said.

Singers are also invited to fill in the gaps when the bands are setting up. If interested in performing, contact Pate.

The only thing new planned for the festival is the layout, Walters said.

If possible, he would like to add more carnival rides.

Kirksey Amusements provided the games and rides last year and will be providing this year's carnival also. Hinson is in charge of the carnival.

Walters said he would like to add more rides to the carnival but doing so will cost more money, he said.

Wright is spearheading the vendor line-up and is also administrator for the festival website.

Walters said there will not be a Saturday night dance this year. Last year's attendance did not warrant holding the dance again this year. Walters also noted that carnival rides will go late into the evening.

He said he is looking at the possibility of holding a street dance again on Friday night.

"Last year's was very successful," he said. "And it was spur of the moment."

He said about 300 people came to the street dance.

"It was our biggest proud moment," he said.

The festival committee is hoping to gain additional sponsorship for the festival. Walters said there are some individuals and businesses on board but he would like to get more.

"We offer sponsorship packages," he said.

The package provides advertising for the business on the festival website.

"It gives an incentive to sponsor," he said.

"Without sponsors and vendor fees, there's no way we could put the festival on," Walters said.

The location of the festival offers little shade from the sun so Walters is hoping to set up more tents for people to sit underneath while listening to the entertainment or chatting with friends. He said he would love to have some picnic tables with umbrellas also.

"I know shade is a big issue for some people," he said.

Also in the works is a car, truck, motorcycle and golf cart show. Trophies will be awarded.

Festival t-shirts with a new design will be offered this year. Walters said he also hopes to have other festival merchandise for sale.

Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers are needed to help with the festival, he stressed.

"We need volunteers!" Walters said. "We can't do it by ourselves. It takes more than the three of us to put the festival together."

If you're interested in volunteering in any area, call the festival number, 482-6029 and leave your name, number and a brief message.

"We've got a lot to get done in six or seven weeks," Walters said. "And my list is long."

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