Photo by Heather Middleton
By Joel Hall
The fourth annual East Clayton County Community Day Festival could have served as the official beginning of summer. On Saturday, it drew hundreds of families for inside, and outside, activities at the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center, in Rex.
There were children jumping up and down on big, inflatable toys, others splashing about and playing games in the swimming pool. And in the shade, just out of the glare of the afternoon sun, checker-players matched wits, as the smell of hamburgers on the grill filled the air.
More than a dozen singers and musicians performed, treating listeners to gospel, calypso, folk, rhythm and blues, and jazz. Numerous vendors sold food, provided helpful information, gave free haircuts, performed high blood-pressure and diabetes checks, and there were supervised sports and art activities, too.
State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), who has hosted the festival along with Clayton County District 1 Commissioner Sonna Singleton since its inception, said the threat of rain had limited the event in previous years, but -- this year -- good weather allowed more vendors to reach more people with services.
"Things have run a lot smoother this year. When we started it [the festival], there was nothing of this sort in the area. I think this is a holistic way of serving the community, and people walk away with a great sense of appreciation," said Glanton.
Singleton recalled how the first festival was at Rex Mill Middle School, but since moving it to the recreation center, the event has been able to accommodate more vendors.
"We are showcasing and presenting information," Singleton said. "A lot of people are coming to me and saying, 'I didn't know about this, I didn't know about that.' It's important because people really want to get involved in the community."
Ellenwood resident, Beverly Terrell, said she has attended the festival every year with her son. She said she enjoyed the community information, health checks, and face time with local officials, and candidates for elected office.
"We did the health checks to make sure my glucose level was normal," Terrell said. "They checked him for being hypoglycemic ... since then, he's doing a lot better. It [the festival] also gets the politicians out, so you get to know who they are."
Christine Simms, another Ellenwood resident, brought her nieces to the recreation center, but was pleasantly surprised by the festival, and the sounds of the PanSonics Steel Band, which played throughout the event.
"I just thought it was a regular park day. I really enjoyed the steel band, because I'm originally from the Caribbean," she said. "A lot of times, we have to go into Fulton County or somewhere else to go to some place like this."
Clayton County Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford said the festival is paving the way for future events and partnerships.
"It's really all about bringing in the community to find out what resources are in the area, particularly the east Clayton area. A lot of the collaborations and events we do are born out of events like this. You're able to start up new partnerships and new programs that wouldn't have happened, if not for this," Stanford said.