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Flowertown Festival History still evolving

  • Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Provided This YMCA scrapbook shows paper clippings of the 1973 Miss Azalea Queen contestants.

The Summerville YMCA's Flowertown Festival has been a landmark event for the town during the last four decades.The ever-evolving festival has grown steadily. It draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the region.

The family-friendly festival celebrates azaleas that bloom in the springtime. It also promotes arts and crafts and local and regional businesses.

In 1972, Jean Gantt and Nina Spell, volunteers for the Young Women's Christian Organization (YWCO), came up with the idea for the festival.

Gantt was the first paid CEO of the Summerville Family YMCA.

Gantt, Spell and their friends dreamed of hosting an “azalea festival” to raise proceeds for a YWCO building.

The 1973 Flowertown Festival included events like a parade, a donkey baseball game, a square dance exhibition, an arts and crafts festival with booths, carriage tours, a children's art tunnel, hay wagon rides, a tennis tournament, children's pony rides, a motorcycle exhibition, a karate exhibition, a children's dog show, a marble shooting contest, a beauty pageant, a silhouette show, a horse show, a rugby match and bicycle races.

The booths that year offered handmade local stationary, Lowcountry cookbooks, old-time homemade candies and fudge, ceramics, sculpture demonstrations, stained glass windows and a variety of plants from local nurseries, including azaleas.

More than 40 years later the Flowertown Festival continues to support its mission to raise funds for the Summerville Family YMCA Annual Support Campaign.

The YMCA's campaign ensures that everyone in Summerville has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. At the Y, no child, family or adult is turned away for an inability to pay, according to a statement from the YMCA.

Proceeds help strengthen the community by helping to advance programming and services that support youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

The Annual Support Campaign helps local individuals and families in need participate in programs such as afterschool care, youth sports, health and wellness activities, swim lessons summer camp and more.

Since the YMCA is a non-profit organization, the net proceeds from the Flowertown Festival are used to continue the organization's philanthropic mission by offering programs at an affordable rate and helping families in need who cannot afford to pay program or membership fees, according to a statement from the YMCA.The Summerville YMCA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the beauty of nature and international friendship through year-round programs, events, and educational initiatives that enhance the environment, showcase arts and culture, and build community spirit.

Over 15,000 people in Summerville and its surrounding communities, participate in YMCA sponsored programs and membership.

For more information on the Summerville Family YMCA and current programs please visit its booth on 5th and Main Street or online at www.flowertownfestival.org/about.html.

The YMCA has announced a membership promotion. The joining fee for all new members is $25 at the YMCA booth and at all branches from April 4 to April 6.

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