Staff Photos: Jason Braverman. Top, Ty Madsen, 3, cools off with an ice cream on Saturday afternoon at Snellville Days. Bottom, Lisa Sutherland of Lawrenceville looks at wind chimes.
SNELLVILLE -- Bright sunshine, a light breeze, the scent of freshly made funnel cakes and the rhythmic stomp of cloggers on a distant stage -- must be Snellville Days, one of the most anticipated annual events in Gwinnett County. The 38th annual Snellville Days Festival kicked off Saturday morning with a parade that wound through the heart of the city and boasted more than 70 entrants.
Gail Deal, chairperson of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, smiled as she looked over the bustling mix of families, exhibitors and city leaders Saturday morning.
"This is a great turnout, especially for a Mother's Day weekend," said Deal of both festival exhibitors and visitors. She credited the success of this year's festival -- themed "Bringing Families Together" -- with the combined efforts of her board, the Snellville Days committee, Snellville Tourism and Trade and JRM Marketing.
Vicki Pomeroy, who chairs the Snellville Days committee, pointed out that Snellville Days is so popular because it stands out from other area festivals.
"We are a juried event. Everything must be handmade," Pomeroy said. Laughing, she also pointed out that Snellville Days "knocked the (Savannah) River Street Festival out of the Top 100 festivals nationwide" last year, a feat in which Pomeroy takes great pride.
Esther and John Gideon and their family relaxed on a stone wall Saturday and ate lunch, after winning third place in the parade float contest, representing the Southeast Co-op.
"This is the first year I've ever been in the parade, and I enjoyed it," Esther said. The Gideons' daughter, Cindy Johnson, said that she has been coming to the Snellville Days Festival for 30 years. Although her family didn't move to Snellville until she was 9 years old, "This is home now," Johnson said.
City councilman Tom Witts was all smiles on Saturday, too, as he took his turn manning the official city council booth.
"I've had so many people ask me about Towne Center," said Witts, pointing to one of several displayed artists' renditions of the recently unveiled city development project.
With continuous live entertainment throughout the day, Saturday closed out with the band Restless Heart taking the stage. A '70s and '80s favorite with eight top-10 hits to its name, the group did not disappoint the lively crowd at the end of the day. Pomeroy takes pride in landing big-name bands for Snellville Days concerts. Last year, Mother's Finest rocked the Snellville Days stage, and next up: Ambrosia, according to Pomeroy.
There's not much time to sit back and soak up the praise, though. Preparations for Snellville Days 2012 will begin next month.
"Even with the struggling economy and the fact that this is Mother's Day weekend, to have such a strong turnout for Snellville Days says a lot about this event," Pomeroy said.
State representative Brett Harrell, a favorite local son and former mayor of Snellville, perhaps summed up the day's mood best by pointing out that only once, in 38 years, has Snellville Days ever been rained out. Apparently, some things are just too good to miss.