It’s full-speed ahead for a new park in Irmo that will become home of the nationally-known Okra Strut.
Town Council is spending $1.1 million so the park is ready in mid-August, six weeks before the 40-year festival returns in late September.
Some town leaders warn the gathering may have to wait another year to move to the 14-acre tract on Eastview Drive if new landscape isn’t mature enough to withstand crowds.
A fallback plan “would be the safest thing to do,” Mayor Hardy King said.
If necessary, festival chairman Kirk Luther suggests holding it again at a smaller park and surrounding roads next to Town Hall. “We’d more than likely go back there,” he said.
Other town leaders expect the new park to be ready for the festival in late September.
“There should be enough time for the sod to set,” Councilman Barry A. Walker Sr. said. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Features in the new park – unnamed as yet – include an amphitheater, walking path, playground and picnic facilities.
Its completion in late summer comes after council members decided to pay for it with savings rather than wait and seek state aid that King estimates could bring in as much as $500,000.
Walker calls that prospect uncertain and no reason to delay opening the park sooner for the festival and the public.
The tab for buying the site and developing it – a step that officials say requires the removal of several pine and hardwood trees in the center of the site – is $1.5 million so far.
No donations for the project have come despite predictions from some council members that contributions would help allay the cost.
Festival supporters sought the new park after complaints about traffic and noise forced the event to move regularly as available sites shrank.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.