By Valerie Baldowski
Six-year-old Lexi Stephens carefully took a scoop of shaved ice in a cone-shaped cup, and made her way over to a dispenser of flavored syrup. With the help of Valerie Love, Lexi squirted out a dollop of syrup over the ice, making an "Icee."
Lexi and Love were among the thousands who attended the annual Geranium Festival, sponsored by the McDonough Lions Club. The one-day event was held Saturday in McDonough.
"We come every year," said Love. "We love coming for the food, the Icees, the rides, and everything."
Love said her favorite food at the festival were the tomato-and-cheese sandwiches, sold from a booth on The Square. What makes the annual event enjoyable is the venue, as well as the "togetherness," she said. "It's really nice up here."
The annual festival is a major fund-raiser for the McDonough Lions Club, said club member Kelly Lee. This year's event was a success, according to Lee. The Geranium festival drew more than 20,000 people, he said. "I was talking to the actual vendors," he said Monday. "Everybody that I talked to said this was one of the best years they've had, as far as sales."
Money raised from the event goes to support charities in Henry County, as well as state-wide and national charities, added Lee. Some of those charities include: the Lion's Club camp for the Blind, The Lighthouse Foundation; The Leader Dog program, and the Henry County High school scholarship Foundation.
Many of the activities were centered around The Square, although a number of attractions were spread out along Keys Ferry Street, John Frank Ward Boulevard, Macon Street, and Griffin Street. In addition to booths of local merchants, there were pony rides, music, face-painting, a dunking booth, inflatables for children, and a wide array of food and beverages.
Many in attendance were like Jesse Walker, and his 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, previous Geranium festivals fans. They were found sitting in the shade of a tree, finishing off a plate of boiled peanuts.
"I've been here before," Walker said. "It's something to do." The most enjoyable part of the event, he said, was sampling the food, and "just hanging out." When asked what she liked best about the festival, his daughter, Oliva's, answer was offered without hesitation. "Riding the slides," she said.
Barbara Thompson and her children, 5-year-old D.J., and 3-year-old James, strolled among the booths set up along Keys Ferry Street after the boys got an ice cream cone. They stopped to briefly visit the Dentistry for Children booth. The McDonough mother said she brought her children to the festival to expose them to the variety of hand-made items on display.
"I come every year; I'm a crafter," said Thompson. "We came to get some sunshine, and let them see the different arts and crafts. I sew, so they see my crafts all the time. They've enjoyed seeing the woodworking and the leather."
Phyllis Shrader, and Scott Upchurch, both of McDonough, were sitting on a stone wall bordering the grassy area on The Square, eating Gyro sandwiches. Upchurch, originally from Chicago, said the southern style festival was a bit different from those in the North.
"Chicago's got a lot of ethnic stuff -- Polish, Italian -- but I enjoy the food down here," said Upchurch. "I've become addicted to funnel cakes since I've moved here."
Upchurch said he enjoyed visiting the booths as much as watching people and their pets during the festival. "I just enjoy walking around seeing the different crafts," he said. "I like looking at the people's dogs."