I was in a discussion about Greenfield’s future and one subject discussed was the Greene Countrie Towne Festival. My personal thought is that it never has a reason for being. What does it celebrate, what is its theme? Wilmington has it’s Banana Split Festival and Hillsboro its Festival of the Bells. Each is themed on a historical reality about its past.
The constant in Greenfield’s yearly gathering is the antique car show and at one time the festival was renamed Wheels of Progress festival in some attempt at a theme. But, other than the historical presence of the C.R. Patterson Company there is little historical connection to the automobile industry. In the past 40-years, however, a goodly portion of the village’s economy has been economically dependent on that industry. But, is it enough to structure a celebration around?
We have the McClain legacy and a sister-village in Georgia. Atco Village (now a part of Cartersville, GA) was founded by E.L. McClain to produce cloth for his factories here in Greenfield and elsewhere. We have a completely unique educational campus that was given birth by McClain’s successes.
A decade ago I drove to Beaux Bridge, Louisiana to attend the world’s largest and oldest crawfish festival. It was absolutely the best festival I’ve ever attended and here’s why. It had a definite theme, the celebration and honoring of the area’s Cajun culture and other things Gulf Coast. It was held in a fenced in area and the crowd paid a minimal entre fee making crowd control and security excellent. And since this was a Cajun celebration, everything from the food to the flea market was Cajun themed. There wasn’t any scraggly dude selling Sturgis, SD t-shirts or Italian pizza or Polish sausage sandwiches. If it wasn’t Cajun related it wasn’t going to be sold there.
The food vendors were all local organizations. Years ago difference clubs, etc., had signed up for certain foods and they owned the market on that item. The Elks had the Crawfish Etouffee booth, the Kiwanis Club the crawfish & potato boil, the Rotary Club was deep-frying alligator tail, the Junior League was making shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, and the Girl Scouts were peddling bread pudding & hard sauce.
No Cajun gathering is complete without a little adult libation so New Orelean’s Pat O’Brien had a mobile bar on site mixing up their famous creation, the Hurricane, as well as other traditional NOLA mixed drinks. A beer wagon was present but not vending Bud Light. Louisiana has it’s own breweries and the wagon was selling a variety of draft beers from the local Abita Brewery.
There were three music stages and for most of the day and evening what you heard coming from them was traditional Louisiana folk music performed in the French dialect of the Cajuns, Zydeco, Blues, NOLA style jazz, and maybe a little Southern rock.
I realize that few regions of the nation have a culture so defined and rooted as does Louisiana’s bayous and swamps but someplace in what I experienced is what the minds of this community should consider considering.
Here’s a few more thoughts. In Greenfield’s past is a pretty strong influx of immigration from Ireland and Germany. While they are not identical cultures they do share common elements, they both like beer and have a fondness for potatoes. Before the advent of the factory farm this area was famous for the production of hogs and hogs turn into sausage and the Germans like sausage and sausage goes well with beer. Last year’s very successful and inaugural Oktoberfest is an event that could be tied into these historical connections.
We also have a rather unique historical district. Just consider the collection of historical properties, operated by the Greenfield Historical Society, that exist along McArthur Way. Possibly that could become a new and more controllable location for a festival or celebration.
Finally, I don’t have any definitive ideas about all this. I, and others, are merely trying to brain storm a little about things that could attract attention to the village for something other than the occasional meth lab bust. Festivals and other community events can bring outside dollars, get people involved, reestablish old friendships, foster a better sense of community and common purpose, and other immeasurable positive results.
Once again, I am asking all of you, whether you still live in Greenfield or not, to become a part of the conversation. Put your heads together and give it some thought. Open up and, using this blog or other means to share your ideas and thoughts. You never know what seed of a pearl may lie inside your thoughts.