2020 Sweet Potato Festival joins list of virus’ victims
By Samantha Lyles
Word came a few days ago that the South Carolina Sweet Potato Festival will not be held this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, usually held on the first Saturday in October, brings thousands of visitors to downtown Darlington for a day of music, food, and fun – but organizers say that in the interest of public health and safety, that fun will have to wait.
“We very often have 10,000 to 20,000 people attend. There are over 100 vendors, and the entertainers on the stage. … It is such a large number of people around the Public Square in such close proximity that we felt like it would not be advisable to hold it this year,” says Mary Scott, public relations chairperson for the Pilot Club of Darlington.
“There are so many people who help us, from city workers and law enforcement officers to volunteers, and we wanted to do what was best for all of them.”
Scott says that club leadership recently met to discuss options, including postponement, and opted to cancel entirely based on guidance from local, state and national public safety advisories.
Many out-of-state food and craft vendors travel to Darlington for the festival, and Scott says they have been notified of the cancellation and offered a 10 percent discount for booking next year’s event in advance.
“A number of our vendors have been with us for years, and we wanted to encourage them to come back next year and stay with us,” says Scott.
The economic impact of the festival will be missed by city businesses and organizations – the Pilot Club chief among them. The Sweet Potato Festival is the club’s primary annual fundraiser, yielding several thousand dollars for community service activities like the Darlington High School Anchor Club, tracking devices for individuals with dementia or brain disorders, and the Brain Minders puppet show, which teaches children the importance of using safety equipment to prevent head injury.
“We are looking at other ways to raise money, other types of fundraisers, so that we can keep up our projects,” Scott says.
In the meantime, we look forward to better days when we can again greet each other on the Square with a smile while enjoying some fresh-squeezed lemonade and a funnel cake. Perhaps the world will be a brighter, sweeter place Oct. 9, 2021, and we can all enjoy the 38th Annual S.C. Sweet Potato Festival together.
For updates, check www.darlingtonpilotclub.org and visit the Pilot Club of Darlington Facebook page for information about the festival and other activities of the organization.