WHAT: Lexington County Peach Festival and Fourth of July Parade.
WHERE: Gilbert Community Park and Main Street in Gilbert.
WHEN: All day. Exhibits and booths open as early as 8 a.m.; parade starts at 9:30 a.m.
What started in 1959 as a Fourth of July community political “stump meeting” hosted by the Gilbert Community Club is now known as one of the largest festivals in South Carolina, bringing an estimated 35,000 people to the Lexington County town of Gilbert each year.
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“It was started by a group of ladies who had the idea to have politicians come and meet with community members,” said Robin McCartha, publicity co-chair of the Peach Festival. “They quickly realized they could turn it into a community fundraiser by selling some drinks and cakes, and because we have a lot of peaches in Lexington County, they decided to make the desserts with peaches as a way to kind of honor the peach. I doubt they had any idea it would go on or grow as it has.”
Today, the Lexington County Peach Festival still upholds the premises of its origin, offering up nearly a dozen types of sweet peachy treats, as well as its fair share of local and state politicians – particularly during an election year – who march down Main Street as they take part in the Festival’s Fourth of July Parade, added to the event years later (S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is slated to be the parade’s grand marshal this year).
But peaches and a parade are not all festivalgoers can expect if they head into Gilbert Community Park on Saturday. The festival now starts with a car show, an antique tractor show, dozens of arts and crafts booths, an art display featuring award-winning peach- or patriotic-themed creations from Gilbert students and, this year, the Peachy Contest – a food contest where cooks can enter a peach dish using at least two cups of fresh peaches. First-place winners will receive a $75 prize, with $50 going to second-place winners in two categories: dessert and salads/main dishes. (Entries must be in the Gilbert Primary School cafeteria by 9 a.m. Saturday.) In addition, the oldest and youngest attendees will be honored with a plaque at a special ceremony at 11 a.m. in the cafeteria. Only those in the cafeteria at 11 can qualify so be sure to head that way following the parade.
“The festival is attractive to families because it’s free and it’s fun,” McCartha said. “There is a cost for the food and any arts and crafts you might purchase, but the entertainment and the festival itself is free. You can just bring a folding chair and get in the shade and sit all day and listen to music if you like. The whole day just creates a good sense of community.”
If crowds and summer heat are on your list of things to avoid on the Fourth, you might want to consider staying home (or arriving early, getting a good parking spot and watching the parade from your air-conditioned vehicle). For the rest of you, put on your red, white and blue, and head to Gilbert expecting nothing but good, peachy-clean family fun.
For nearly six decades, Gilbert has been the place to be in the state of South Carolina on the Fourth of July – this year will be no exception.
Janet Jones Kendall
Lexington County Peach Festival Peachy Treats
In addition to a variety of fresh peaches, festival goers can choose from a variety of peach desserts, including:
Peach cobbler (if you want this, purchase it by 2 p.m. at the latest, McCartha warns, as it sells out quickly)
Peach Ice Cream (the second-most popular treat, made this year by Pet especially for the Peach Festival)
Peach Almond Delight
Peach Berry Split
Lexington County Peach Festival Music
With three music stages set up in Gilbert Community Park, there is music playing from sunup to sundown on July 4. A sampling of this year’s bands include:
The Robby Cockrell Band
Mama’s Home Cooking
Black Bottom Biscuits
Dandy Don Cowboy Entertainer
Sly Dog Band