FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The 13th Annual South Carolina Pecan Festival, which takes place Saturday, is expected to bring in nearly 50,000 people to Florence.
It's a fun-filled festival that starts at 10 a.m., with activities until 7 p.m., along Cheves, Dargan, Evans and Irby streets in downtown Florence.
Traffic lanes will be closed the day of the festival. Downtown Development and the city of Florence put on the festival each year. Organizers said it all started out as just a wish and a prayer 13 years ago, and has grown ever since.
"It's developing a reputation regionally in the southeast and we're very, very proud of that," said Florence City Councilman George Jebaily, festival chairman.
He added it's become something that is ingrained in the mind of people who live in Florence to expect the first weekend in November each year.
Organizers expect thousands of people to fill the streets. The festival features seven stages of live music, more than 150 food and craft vendors, a free kids fun zone, amusement rides, an antique tractor show, a car show and competition, a cook-off, a vocal competition, a cornhole competition, 10K, 5K and half marathon races, a half metric century bike ride, and much more.
The city encourages people to take advantage of the free PDRTA park and ride to get to and from the festival because of the large numbers of people and closed roads.
"Certainly there is parking here, but instead of trying to go 'nuts' finding a place to park and fighting for a parking spot, just take the park and ride, free shuttle buses that run all day long every 15 minutes. They start at 10:30 in the morning and run until 7:30 at night, so we really encourage everyone to do it," Jebaily said.
Locations to pick and drop off are the Hallmark Square Plaza, the Florence Regional Airport, the old Winn Dixie location and the Florence Mall.
The Pecan Festival takes almost a year to plan and up until 13 years ago, Jebaily said Florence never had a festival to call its own.
"Young's Pecan was a processing plant here in Florence; now you have Young's Plantation that does the retail part aspect of it, and based in Florence as well, and so Florence has a history of being connected to the pecan," he said.
He added the popularity and visibility of the pecan festival is just another economic boost for the city of Florence.
"Maybe some people haven't been downtown in a while. They come now and go, 'I didn't know that store was there. I didn't know that new restaurant showed up,'" he said.