Breakfast at The Inn at Folkston included coffee with cream, a variety of sweeteners, orange juice, a delightfully delectable fruit salad, fluffy blueberry pancakes and crispy bacon all in a charming atmosphere of fine dining in southern living fashion. In addition to the excellent food and southern hospitality was a lot of happy camaraderie with other guests.
After the scrumptious breakfast, we headed for the wash room. After a relaxing and refreshing shower, we donned our casuals for the day.
A knock on our door signaled the arrival of Keith Daniels who would escort us to the downtown festivities and have us at the big parade by 10:00am. Cathy had an early business meeting in St. Marys and would join us later in the morning. We were excited.
Janis Richtmyer, the proprietor of The Inn at Folkston gave us permission to leave Big Red there and walk to the goings-on. We ambled up the street past hundreds of vendors. Someone said that there were over 300 vendors. There were fifty food vendors. If anyone went hungry at the Great Okefenokee Festival, it was not because of the lack of food. The flavorful fragrance from the grills and stoves saturated the air. Music from a band added a lively spirit.
Under the threat of rain and with marching band members wearing ponchos, the long, vigorous parade began promptly at 10:00am. In spite of the rain factor, the parade was a hit with the crowd. My favorite part of the parade was the old cars, especially the Mustangs. Later after Cathy arrived, we spent time at the fabulous car show. I told the organizers of the Mustang section that B. J. and I are the proud owners of two high performance Mustangs. We were promptly invited to join the prestigious MCOA (Mustang Club of America). They have a chapter in Jacksonville and they do fun things.
Many exciting things were taking place at the Chesser Island Homestead about eight miles into the Okefenokee. Cathy and Keith wanted us to go there. We loaded into her van and headed into the swamp.
Cathy drove us to the Recreation Area where we boarded a big charter bus with a guide that would give a lecture tour through the swamp. On the way to the Chesser place, our guide showed us some of the recent fire damage. There were alligators beside the road.
The driver pulled the bus into a parking area. We would walk the “Homestead Trail” 0.7 of a mile to the Chesser house. The trail led past a prehistoric Indian mound to a first aid tent at the edge of the yard. Rousing things were occurring on the front lawn: gospel singing, folk music, basket weaving, lectures about Okefenokee wildlife, chair caning, fan and broom making and woodcarving. The participants were attired in the dress worn during those early years.
We continued the tour across the big, grassless front yard to the front porch quilting party. The house tour carried us into the living quarters and showed us how they lived back in the early days.
In the kitchen, they were cooking on an old wood-burning stove. We would eat lunch cooked on this stove.
In the back yard, they were washing clothes with a “Battlin’ Stick. There was an early chicken coop with live chickens, and they were churning butter the old-fashioned way. Syrup making was not in season. There was a peanut boiling, a storage shed and a smoke house with real meat smoking. There was a corncrib and a stall for animals.
In the side yard, there was turpentining, soap making (B. J. and Cathy tried their hands at stirring soap in a big cast iron wash pot), a spinning wheel and various games that the youngsters and adults played in the old days. The games included ring and stick racing, foot racing, musical chairs, sack racing and wheelbarrow racing. The feature was a 30-minute guided walk: “Journey Through a Hardwood Hammock”.
We had gotten into the boiled peanuts and we were having a munching good time as we made the tour. “These are the kind of peanuts that I love to eat,” commented B. J.
It was time for a lunch break. It had been a long time since breakfast and we were hungry. Our lunch consisted of homemade vegetable soup, smoked ham and sausage, and biscuits cooked on a wood stove in the Chesser kitchen.
We ate while sitting in chairs placed about the yard.
The day was still young. We would return to the activities in Folkston and enjoy the rest of the day with our fun friends Cathy and Keith.
They have a nighttime Christmas celebration with the burning of the Yule Log at the Chesser place. We will probably be there.