Spittoono celebrates 28 years in Clemson
The 28th annual Spittoono Festival was held this weekend in Clemson.
If you noticed the smell of funnel cake, polish sausage and kettle corn in the air or heard the sounds of music this weekend near the National Guard Armory in Clemson may have experienced Spittoono.
The annual festival, somewhat jokingly referred to as “the redneck festival,” had its start in 1981 at Clemson’s Esso Club when tobacco spittin’ contests and other rural competitions were in style. Having long outgrown the venue and the redneck contests, the event now calls the baseball field behind the armory home. The three-day 28th annual Spittoono ended Saturday.
Spoofing the highly refined Spoleto festival in Charleston, Spittoono has changed slightly over the years, said George Hurley, a member of the charity event’s board of directors, which is known as the Redneck Performing Arts Association.
“The Old Guard who started all this — Punk Bodiford, Larry Atkinson, Jamie Preston, Ted Balk and others — ran this festival for 25 years, and it was great,” Hurley said. “After they retired some of the younger people took it on. Some adjustments were made to keep it fresh, and folks say it is even better.
“I have been busy for the last two weeks getting things organized and doing the electrical work. I bet I have strung over 2,000 feet of cable, wiring and drop cords in the last few days.”
The laid-back atmosphere has not changed, and Spittoono will remain “critter- and kid-friendly,” Hurley said.
“In recent years the emphasis has been on musical entertainment,” he said. “We have a full slate of rock and roll, bluegrass and blues bands performing nightly. This is great local talent, and it is free for the listening. We actually audition bands to play the festival and have a waiting list of groups wanting to play Spittoono.”
Diana Palmer from Seneca said this year that she has been coming to Spittoono with her family for several years.
“We love to come to this event. It is all about the rock ‘n roll, baby,” Palmer said.
Joy and Jack Wilson from Fountain Inn run a catering service called Backyard BBQ, but at Spittoono they are famous for their shrimp and grits.
“We have been coming here as vendors for three years, but we would come to Spittoono and Clemson anyway, because we were married here and just love the place,” Jack Wilson said. “Joy and I particularly enjoy the music. It is the best!”
Hurley said, “This event has benefited charities like Helen’s Hugs, a horse rescue center, Helping Hands and Community Care of Clemson and the Collins Children’s Home in Seneca. Last year we gave $6,000 to these and other charities.”
Crowd sizes for Friday and Saturday nights were estimated to be 3,500 people each night, organizers said. Many vendors agreed that the cooling breezes and lower than normal temperatures had brought many people to the event to enjoy the carnival atmosphere.
“If I had to pick one thing this event is about, I would say family and friends,” Hurley said. “It is like a family reunion each year and everyone seems to enjoy that,” he said.