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The first South Carolina Upper Lowcountry Muscadine Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Saltcatcher Farms in Denmark. The event is sponsored by Community Rural Arts Work League of Bamberg County or CRAWL, a grassroots organization housed in Denmark.

CRAWL’s Muscadine Festival is slated to have a myriad of traditional artists, artisan, and crafters. Coming to the stage each hour will be a storyteller, a culture-bearer and a musical performance. Concurrent games and even a kayak paddling trip will ensue.

Storytellers include Cynthia Jones, a retired S.C. educator who has used creative storytelling/writing to build self-esteem for over 30 years, and Nancy Basket, a weaver of Cherokee stories who has worked as an Artist-In-Education in S.C. Jones’s students received numerous writing awards during their third and fourth grades with her. Another storyteller will be Tim Dillinger. Dillinger has served as an Artist-In-Education and a festival storyteller; his latest festival appearance was at Walterboro’s WHAM Festival. Dillinger will use children’s expressive tales and ideas to create a small production titled, “The Muscadine Mystery.”

Culture-bearers include Denmark’s own Scott Bester. Bester is a Revolutionary War reenactor. He also will demonstrate antique methods of ironworking. Bobby Harley will present cultural history of Buffalo Soldiers and offer a youthful glimpse into what was. Harley, a native of Blackville, has been recognized as an outstanding educator and historian. He has received numerous awards and is an acclaimed cultural advisor for the Blackville Phoenix group and other entities associated with The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative.

Muscadine Festival coming to Denmark

Also scheduled is rag quilter Sharon Cooper Murray. She is recognized as a Gullah-Geechee storyteller and will serve in both capacities at this year’s festival. Basket will also serve in two capacities as she will present and workshop muscadine vine basket weaving. She is welcomed back to the community of Denmark where she taught five vine-weaving classes at Christ Episcopal Church and that allowed 30 mature citizens to successfully complete their handwoven baskets.

GARDEN COLUMN: Support for vines

Fans of the muscadine grape will find educational insights. Muscadine farmers Cassandra Williams Rush and Matthew Bowman will be in attendance and will grace the stage to share their expertise. Denmark’s commercial muscadine farmer, Richard Freeman, will offer to all pointers on healthy harvesting. Clemson Extension’s Rob Last will share biological facts and growing recommendations with all.

Concurrent to the activities offered at Saltcatcher Farms will be a kayak paddling trip that will take place at 10 a.m. Led by Jerry Bell, the trip will be from Claude’s Landing to Ness Bridge Landing and will offer views of wild muscadine vines that line the banks of the Edisto River. This 3-mile trip is perfect for a beginner, and Bell promises to assist all who may wish to become first-time paddlers on festival day.

Musicians for the day will appear for 25-minute segments each hour. They include Izell Way and Myron Brooker. Both will present traditions in African American popular arts that culminate in their respective renditions of their own original songs. Also performing original material will be recognized artist Sollie “Puddin” Jennings. Jennings promises to close the day with a trio of blues artists performing his original songs. CRAWL’s own Glyshae will present other African American genres ranging from Southern soul to classic R&B standards. Rounding out performers slated are The Flame Within singing a tribute to World War II and Vietnam veterans and folk musician Jimmy Bessinger.

Activities and games include separate kickball for youth and adults. A scavanger hunt will happen for the young ones at 10:30 a.m. Also scheduled are other races, checkers and hopscotch.

Workshops will be presented throughout the day. Topics will include growing muscadines, crocheting and creative writing. Tours of some of the raised bed gardens at Saltcatcher Farms will be hosted. Attendees also may gather materials from several nonprofit organizations. Professional visual artists have been invited to display. Community vendors will have products available, including lye soaps, essential oils and handcrafted note cards.

Foods available will include fried fish, barbecue and fried chicken. These culinary delights will be presented for donation by nonprofit organizations including Growing COB and by “Community Masters” including Ella Reid. Also continuing the festival’s folklife theme will be cookies by Happy Sweets based on a family recipe from the 1700s as well as Southern delicacies from other vendors including boiled peanuts and specialty hot dogs. Of course, there will be a musadine wine tasting, muscadine juices and a variety of muscadine grapes including scuppernongs and Darlenes. Donations will be accepted for muscadine jams and jellies.

Gates open at 9 a.m. Special provisions have been made for those who may be physically impaired. A suggested donation of $5 will allow all to take advantage of the day. VIP donations of $20 or more will get the donor a souvenir t-shirt and several other items mentioned above.

A list of post-activities and registrations may be found at www.allthingsmuscadine.com. CRAWL’s post-event activities will begin Oct. 1 with culinary arts virtual sessions with demonstrations on uses of muscadine grapes and wines. Chef Hydrick Gass and baker Robert Brooker will be available to discuss their upcoming sessions during the festival day activities.

CRAWL’s mission is to use arts and culture to promote health, workforce development and education. CRAWL was awarded a folklife grant to begin its annual Muscadine Festival from the S.C. Arts Commission assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts. The organization functions under the S.C. Arts Commission’s Art of Community: Rural SC initiative. Other sponsors include Salkehatchie Stew/Bamberg Brew, Ultramacs Music Group, Saltcatcher Farms and Tri-County Health Network.

CRAWL’s SC Upper Lowcountry Muscadine Festival will follow CDC festival guidelines. Masks are required and social distancing will be followed. CRAWL, its partners and its affiliates assume no liability. Participants and attendees assume all risks.

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For further information, contact mcdaniel@allthingsmuscadine.com or 803-290-6461.

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