Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Caroline Markey, 11, of Snellville spins her friend Caroline McKeon, 12, during the 39th annual Snellville Days, an arts and crafts festival at T.W. Briscoe Park in Snellville on Saturday. Markey and McKeon are a part of the Clog Squad and CC Express from Clogging Connection at City Center Dance in Snellville.
SNELLVILLE -- Inside the Snellville Masonic Lodge's tent, Mack Brannan hoped the rain forecasted for late Saturday night would hold off a bit longer. After all, there was a steady flow of customers looking for a barbeque sandwich plate.
Brannan called his product the best barbeque in the county, and he figured there was no better place to serve it than what he called the unofficial kickoff to summer: Snellville Days. In its 39th year, the annual community-wide festival serves as a reunion for friends around the county who have known the first Saturday in May as a staple on the calendar.
"You couldn't tell me the economy was bad," Brannan said. "By the (look of) the crowds, I've seen bigger, but it's been steady. People have to eat. They may not buy a craft, but they have to eat."
The festival didn't have a big-time music act on Saturday night, like Jerry Reed or the Charlie Daniels Band, as it's had in the past, because of a combination of cost and lack of interest, organizers said. But between the parade featuring grand marshal Jordan Rager, a Loganville resident who was recently on the NBC music show "The Voice," and the first showing of the South Gwinnett High School JROTC, this year was another example of community pride, which fit into the festival's slogan: "Proud to be..."
"It puts people together who haven't seen each other in years," said councilman Dave Emanuel, who bumped into a friend he hadn't seen in 15 years.
Couples like Mary Jane Gresham, a vice chair of the Snellville Days Committee, and her husband altered their wedding anniversary plans because of the event.
"We never got to celebrate our anniversaries because we were always here," said Gresham, who was grand marshal of the parade two years ago, the year her husband died.
While entertainment has changed, the festival still boasts 150 craft, food and civic vendors. And there were several inflatables for kids, a wild bird show and chainsaw exhibition.
The city's new mobile stage, which the city council is proud to use, was the venue for local acts Emanuel said gain more exposure than they would otherwise.
While the city has seen new businesses and restaurants open recently, along with the recent addition of a community garden and farmers market, councilman Bobby Howard said Snellville Days is the anchor event that brings them all together.
"All these things are beginning to gel the community," Howard said. "There's some vibrancy, this kind of gets everything started for the year, a kick-start. This reminds people what community is. To have anything for 39 years is a testament to stability, and it's the people that do it."
The festival continues from noon to 5 p.m. today.