After moving to Winterville in 2007, Emily Eisenman brought a popular annual event, the Winterville Marigold Festival, back in 2009 after a six-year hiatus. This year, the city is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the festival’s return with plans for the largest and most diverse event to date.
Eisenman found out that the 501(c)(3) that sponsored the festival had remained active, and she saw an opportunity to raise money and provide a fun, positive day for Winterville and surrounding areas.
“Everyone I talked to had such fond memories of the festival, so to me, it was really important to bring it back,” Eisenman says. “I didn’t have any festival experience, but I thought it would be a shame if I didn’t at least try.”
Eisenman became mayor of Winterville in 2012, serving in that position until 2016. She and current Mayor Dodd Ferrelle, along with the festival board, work together every year to plan the event.
Saturday’s festivities will kick off with the Marigold 10K road race, which is the second-oldest road race in Georgia, after Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race. The race will be followed by a parade. To honor Eisenman and all her efforts regarding the festival, she has been named the grand marshal of this year’s parade.
The festival committee expects anywhere from 6,000–8,000 people to attend, and has prepared more activities than ever. The goal this year, according to Ferrelle, is to diversity the activities and make the festival fun and accessible for everyone.
Ferrelle says the Marigold Festival is a small-town celebration that has expanded to include people from all across the region.
“We want to keep the tradition of the festival alive while also changing with the times,” Ferrelle says. “We want everyone to be a Wintervilleian for the day.”
This year, the festival will serve not only as a celebration, but also as a tool to help the city grow and band together. Each year prior, proceeds from the festival went into the city’s infrastructure budget, but this year, the money will go toward Winterville’s community outreach program. This will allow the board to put on a back-to-school festival at the end of the summer, complete with music, activities and supplies for students.
Ferrelle says this is all part of an effort to build up the future of the city.
“I have a big focus as mayor on strengthening our schools and empowering our youth,” Ferrelle says. “I’m excited the board has decided to put the money back into community outreach, so we can put back into the students in the area, and we can grow our future leaders.”
In addition to an increase in vendors, food and activities, the Winterville Arts Council will set up a booth to sell raffle tickets for two VIP tickets to a concert featuring Drive-By Truckers, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Drivin N Cryin and Ferrelle’s own band, Dodd and the Councilmen. The prize package includes a hotel room for the night and $250 in cash.
The show will take place Friday, Sept. 13 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, which will also have representatives present at the Marigold Festival. Ferrelle says the Fox Theatre Institute will present the city with a “big check.” Those funds will go towards further renovations to the historic Winterville Auditorium, which will include the addition of a new audio-visual system.
The day will also include lots of live music, including sets from Caroline Aiken, The Welfare Liners, Clay Leverett and The Wydelles, with The Funk Brotherhood headlining at 8 p.m.
Ferrelle says that, above all, he wants to show everyone what his city has to offer.
“I’m excited about what we have planned. I’m excited to give back to the city… I’m just excited,” Ferrelle says. “It’s our day to shine.”
The 10K starts at 7:30 a.m., vendors open at 9 a.m., and festivities last until after The Funk Brotherhood finishes its set. A full schedule and festival updates can be found at marigoldfestival.com.
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