Georgia Sweet Potato Festival
The Ocilla-Irwin Chamber hosts the annual Sweet Potato Festival the last Saturday of October every year. Smiling faces, families united, and memories to be made are some of the best ways to describe the Sweet Potato Festival. The festival began in 1960 to promote and recognize sweet potato growers.
The parade has a lot to offer every year. Spectators can enjoy activities such as the sweet potato cooking contest, a parade, and concession stands for adults and kids. These are only some of the activities that the Sweet Potato Festival has to offer. The festival brings together families along with the Ocilla community to share a day full of fun activities and make endless memories. One of the activities that the families can enjoy is the Old Elementary School displaying their arts in the Annual ARC Arts & Crafts Show. Children here have the opportunity to display artwork of their own for their families and for the community. Hundreds of families come out to see this unique show and to show support.
At the same time that the art show is going on, the Sweet Potato Cooking Contest is being held at the Irwin County Extension Office. Contestants interested in participating can enter the categories of pies, cakes, candied sweet potatoes, soufflés, and novelties such as candy, bread, and ice cream. Winners are picked that same day. The prizes for the winners start at 3rd place $10.00, 2nd place $15.00, and 1st place $20.00. There is also a grand prize that includes a whole set of dishes. After the winners for the cooking contest are chosen, the parade begins. The parade welcomes all churches, organizations, businesses, school clubs, and individuals. People who march at the parade, give away candy to the kids and sometimes give away freebies to the public. The parade is an opportunity for businesses and organizations to advertise for them and interact with the community and potential future customers. Some business and organizations that participate are Fitzgerald Ford, Courtnie Parrish with State Farm, and Riverbend Baptist Church just to name a few.
The high schools that also participate in the parade are Irwin County High School Marching Band and Fitzgerald High School Marching Band. There is no fee to be in the parade. The parade usually lasts about an hour and a half. The community loves watching the parade every year and seeing their very own participate in it as well. After the parade is over, the public heads to the Ocilla Old Elementary School grounds where there are vendors waiting for the public to sell them food and souvenirs. Spectators can find anything from hand-woven clothes to monogrammed shirts and purses. There is also plenty of food variety. The alligator tail is one of the famous delicacies bought frequently along with the fried Oreos. One can also find Greek food, traditional food like hot dogs and hamburgers and Mexican food. Some of the desserts that people can enjoy are the flowered onion, fried snickers, snow cones, and cotton candy. The festival also has a children’s area where there are ponies for the children to ride and inflatables that they can enjoy. There is something for everyone to enjoy and entertainment for all ages. Every year, a pageant is held to select the Miss Georgia Sweet Potato. The categories for that were baby, tiny, little, petite, teen, and miss. This year the applications for the pageant should be available at the end of September or during the first week of October. All ages and ethnicities are welcomed.