The Town of Dearing was crowded Saturday as hundreds attended the annual Mayfest and Centennial Celebration.
"I can't guess how many are here," said Dearing Mayor Pro-Tem Allen Axon "But it seems a lot more than last year, and seems like they're staying all day."
The Mayfest began six years ago as a way to raise money to renovate the old Dearing gymnasium. Three years later, the town received a grant for the renovations, and the Mayfest funds became the local matching dollars.
Although the renovations were complete in 2008, the Mayfest was such a big hit that the tradition continued. Each year, the event kicks off with a parade down the Augusta Highway. Then, everyone flocks to the lawn in front of the gymnasium for exhibits, craft and food vendors, inflatable rides, local entertainment under a big tent and a hamburger cook-off.
Funds raised this year benefit the Good Samaritan House -- a free or reduced-cost health clinic on North Main Street in Dearing. The goal of the Mayfest Committee is to raise $10,000 for the clinic.
"They need things for a lab and they need internet. So, we're trying to help them so they can help the community," Gladys Rodgers said.
This year's Mayfest also was the start of a celebration for the town's 100th anniversary. Mrs. Rodgers said she and Juliet Hampton, Rowe Bowen, Betty McNiff and Charles Massey dressed in period attire, "giggled and laughed and had a good time," and put on a skit telling how the town came into being. According to the skit, the town was first called Lombardy.
"But we changed the name because people got drunk in Augusta and got on the train, they'd say 'Just put me off in hell,' and they'd get thrown off in Lombardy," Mrs. Rodgers said. "We just didn't like that, so we changed our name to Dearing. ... Eventually, we became one of the most respected communities around."
A more serious version of the town's history was shown inside the gymnasium. The beginnings of a video was available for viewing and to order copies of. Mary Wells said the video is a timeline that begins at Dearing's earliest history and will go through the centennial celebration on Aug. 13, 2010.
"So, we don't know yet how long it will be," Mrs. Wells said, adding that the video consists of pictures and scenes, people telling their memories and video footage of the Mayfest.
The video should be ready by the fall, and anyone interested in purchasing it may contact Dearing City Hall at 706- 556-3725.
Miss Allene's Burger Battle took place at noon with six teams competing to see who could cook the best hamburger.
"It was hard to decide the top three, because they were all very, very good," said Dexter Lovins, one of the judges. "But, none were as good as Miss Allene's. Her's were the best."
In addition to Mr. Lovins, who is a member of the McDuffie County Board of Education, the other celebrity judges were Todd Upchurch, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, and Laura Hughes, principal of Dearing Elementary School. Bill Loper organized the cook-off, which is named after Allene Reeves, who served hamburgers in her sandwich shop in Dearing from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Lisa Modlin and Sylvia Richardson moved to Dearing a few months ago, so they never knew Mrs. Reeves. But, that didn't stop them from entering the cook-off. And it didn't take them long to learn just how coveted the rights to the trophy are.
"We're getting that mayor's trophy," Ms. Modlin said, pointing to Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley's booth. "He put it out there for intimidation, but it's going to be ours."
Mayor Kelley, who teams up with Bobby Tolson each year to form "B.S. Burgers" ended up keeping the trophy with the first place finish. And as is the case every year, B.S. Burgers also won the "People's Choice" prize.
Second place went to Kyle Raburn and Ashley Keith, who called themselves "Pig Punisher." Third place went to Daryl Bullock of Augusta and Crawford McConnell of Appling, who cooked for "Hunters Taking Aim On Hunger."
Mrs. Rodgers said the B.S. Burgers and Pig Punishers donated their winning checks back to the Mayfest committee for the Good Samaritan House. Mr. McConnell said they were donating theirs to "Hunters Taking Aim" which would feed the hungry in Columbia County.
"So, it all goes back into the community," Mrs. Rodgers said.