Fun, gratitude, happiness rule Sugar Fest 2019

CLEWISTON — Thousands of people filled the streets of “America’s Sweetest City” and jammed onto the Sugar Festival grounds to jam with the bands as the annual celebration took place Saturday, March 17.

Majesty of Rock kicked off the festivities with a free concert Friday night, March 15, covering the music of Journey and Styx. It ran from 7 to 10 p.m. and drew a great crowd, said U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Jennifer Black.

The featured bands during Sunday’s festival were The Jeremy Bowman Band, Phil Vassar and Gretchen Wilson, with the Brothers Osborne headlining at day’s end. But the main stage, while the main focus, was hardly the only place fun was being had.

It seemed like the entire library/festival grounds/Youth Center/park area, encompassing several square blocks, was just a giant playground. With food aplenty for every taste bud. And diversions galore. The Seminole Tribe’s Kids Fun Zone. And cool, cool lemonade. Smoothies. Candy. Balloons. Babies in strollers everywhere, cooing, with parents and friends ooohing and aaahing. Parents and young couples, boisterous tweens and teenagers and oldsters in rocking lawn chairs and motorcyclers with their “mamas.” Enticements simply abounded.

Later in the day as the throngs were still building on the festival grounds in anticipation of the finale act, Ms. Black was working with volunteers to close up U.S. Sugar’s main tent. She is on the executive committee for the Sugar Festival and also is community relations manager for U.S. Sugar Corp. in Clewiston. “Those roles kind of cross over, to make sure this is both a successful event for both U.S. Sugar and the town, and for the Clewiston Sugar Festival Committee as a whole,” she explained. “I think even with the little bit of rain we had today, this has probably been one of our biggest days ever. And we are super excited to have it all here. The entertainment has been fantastic, great-spirited, and we’re extremely excited about how it’s gone so far.”

She said they were estimating attendance only roughly, using photography and drone footage. “I’m going to say we definitely hit over 10,000 people.”

“I think with our candy shop and our Sweet Taste Contest, it was all a huge success this year. We had a nice cake war — we had a $500 purse for that — and we had over 38 entries into that.

“We want to thank our sponsors, who are the most important parts that made it possible. U.S. Sugar, of course, as the presenting sponsor; we had FPL; we had the Seminole Tribe, who really helped us out with the kids park. FPL sponsored the Friday night entertainment. We also had Palm Peterbilt Truck Centers and Allied Portables, who helped us with our portables,” she said. The H.E. Hill Foundation, United Sugars Corporation and Discover Hendry County (Tourism Development Council) were also sponsors.

Manpower for many different tasks that go into producing an event of this size was provided by Cross Training Ministries, whom Ms. Black was thankful to have on hand. “Cross Training Ministries is a local organization, nonprofit, that is a huge asset to our community,” she said, complimenting its youthful members for providing “all the manpower they possibly could” and being “helpful in all possible areas.”

Some of the grounds decorations were given away, and with the rest, she said, she’ll work with the city to find a park that needs beautification.

“This year was probably one of our best displays. We had quite a technology display; we had, of course, our bell on the outside — that’s actually an old bell from one of our railroad trains. We had two railroad benches out front that were made mostly by our own people.

Ms. Black mentioned the Breakfast With the Chamber that honored Mary Ann Martin on Wednesday, March 13. Noting that “we ended up moving it to the Tiki Bar, which is really her home base,” Ms. Black went on: “It was so great to be there for the morning; great breakfast, great presentation; and a good, friendly turnout.

“Usually our honoree is someone linked to agriculture. But, you know, Clewiston being such a small town and relying on everything it possibly has, and Lake O is another huge asset for this community — really, Mary Ann Martin and Roland Martin have been integral in bringing that population to Clewiston and also being able to bring a different group of people, different profession, different recreation. It was just time to recognize her because she cares a lot about the health of the lake and a lot about the health of her community.”

The Clewiston Sugar Festival is all about gratitude for a bountiful harvest — and for all those who harvest what the town has to offer to make life better for everyone.

“I just want to really thank our volunteers, and everyone from both the community and the city — and the company — who really make this day possible for so many people who don’t know anything about our community that make the trek out here, who come an hour and a half or more … folks from everywhere!” Ms. Black went on.

We never want to become a charging event. It will stay free. We’re so grateful for how well this day went!”

 

 

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