For those who love a taste of festival life, Thomson, Georgia provides a wealth of events and festivals to choose from throughout the year. Located in McDuffie County, Georgia, and within easy commuting distance of Atlanta, the area’s population often swells from 3,000 to over 40,000 when visitors join local residents as spectators and participants at the two dozen festivals and events that pack the area’s annual calendar.
Below is just a choice selection of events you can expect to find hosted throughout the year. With these events being so popular, it is advisable to plan well in advance; book accommodations and plan your itinerary to take in not just a festival or two, but some of the many sports and pursuits famous in this land of outdoor adventure.
Blind Willie McTell Blues Music Festival
The third weekend of May 2013, the 20th annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Music Festival will be celebrated to honor the accomplishments of Thomson’s native son, Blind Willie, born in1898. McTell, who died in 1959, was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1990. Encompassing country, gospel, folk, rock and blues, this festival honors a singer, instrumentalist and composer, whom Bob Dylan immortalized in song as his mentor.
This year’s performer list includes Anson Funderburgh, who appeared in 1993 at the first festival, which was took place in a hayfield. Beginning in 1999, the Blind Willie McTell Blues & Heritage Foundation assumed responsibility for raising capital needed to maintain the event after budgetary constraints prevented McDuffie County from continued sponsorship. It is predicted that a partnership between the Foundation and the Activities Council of Thomson will enable this festival to continue as one of the area’s biggest events.
Oliver Hardy Festival
Situated in McDuffie County, the city of Harlem will host the 24th annual Oliver Hardy Festival to honor Oliver Hardy who, along with Stan Laurel, formed the well-known and long-remembered Laurel & Hardy comedy team. Born Norvell Hardy, Oliver legally changed his name to Oliver Norvell Hardy to honor his father who died before Oliver’s first birthday.
In the eight years following its 1989 debut, the festival had grown from 35 to 350 vendor/participants. Activities include a parade, live entertainment, kiddie rides, and a Look-Like-Hardy competition. Festival visitors are urged to view Laurel & Hardy memorabilia on display at the Oliver Hardy Museum. A festival is held annually in Harlem’s sister-city of Ulverston, England to honor its native son, Stan Laurel.
Tom Watson Watermelon Festival
Hickory Hill is the scene for watermelon seed spitting, greased melon relay racing, melon carving and eating and recipe competitions. Visitors under eight years of age are invited to participate in tossing, rolling, bowling and croquet contests starring watermelons. Formally known as the Tom Watson Watermelon Festival, this festival that began in 2004 also honors the credit given to Watson as creator of the R.F.D. postal delivery system. The festival was used as a Jeopardy television show clue in 2009 and was featured in a 2010 Sports Illustrated magazine article.
The Belle Meade Hunt Opening
Established in 1966, the Belle Meade Hunt Opening has become the world’s largest fox hunt season opening meet. Aboard the Tally Ho Wagon, advance reservation-only ticket holders have the opportunity to observe horseback-riding hunters clad in traditional dressage as they follow the trail of the hounds in pursuit of the fox. A business/casual dress code is required of participants for this hay-wagon adventure that includes the Blessing of Hounds ceremony and social interaction with the hunters at Champagne Hill.
In addition to these events, the three-day celebration of the 10th Off-Main Festival scheduled for early December, 2013 is guaranteed to infuse attendees with the holiday spirit.
About the Author: Author Georgina Clatworthy is a frequent traveller and recommends visitors to these festivals choose the Econo Lodge Hotel Hotel in Thomson Georgia. The hotel is not only a good base for the above mentioned festivals, but also provides easy access to many of the areas historical attractions.