More than 10,000 visitors are expected, with the Greased Pig Contest the ‘must-see’ attraction.
A festive morning parade, arts and craft displays, food vendors, street dancing, and evening fireworks will attract crowds to the 34th annual Bushnell Fall Festival on Oct. 20, yet the event coordinator knows the Greased Pig Contest will be the biggest draw of all.
Yes, greased pigs.
“It’s literally what it sounds like,” says Rebecca Morrison, noting there will be up to 50 greasy pigs in an open muddy area, all surrounded by a large crowd of cheering spectators gathered to watch children chasing after the porkers with hopes of catching one. The winners get to take their pigs home.
“The pig is their prize,” she says. “Since FFA (Future Farmers of America) is so prevalent here in Sumter County, it’s very frequent that you see the kids catch these pigs and take them home to raise them so that they can turn around and show them at next year’s fair.”
The contest is open to youths ages 3-18, each competing in their age group.
“This is the most down-home type of festival. It is the epitome of a small-town feel with arts and craft vendors, food vendors, fireworks, and it all comes together in one event,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca enjoyed attending the Bushnell Fall Festival as a teenager and later with her own children, and the festival began as a way for Bushnell residents to celebrate the city’s birthday. City records note Bushnell was founded with the establishment of the post office on Oct. 28, 1885, and incorporated 26 years later in 1911. Bushnell was named after John W. Bushnell, who was responsible for bringing the railroad to the community. Bushnell is the county seat of rural Sumter County.
Attracting crowds of more than 10,000 people, Bushnell Fall Festival is the largest city event that occurs each year besides the Sumter County Fair, Rebecca says.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind event for where we live,” she says. “It also brings a lot of outside business to the county, and we really think that’s a great thing. We have people as far as Brooksville, Inverness, and beyond who come to the festival.”
The event starts with a 9:30am parade that begins at South Sumter High School. The parade route travels down Main Street and ends at Parkhill Avenue, and it is expected to be filled with floats decorated in the festival’s Medieval Magic theme of kings, queens, knights, nobles, dragons, and castles. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top floats.
“We want people to put as much into it as possible,” Rebecca says of decorating the floats.
Businesses, nonprofit groups, civic organizations, politicians, horses, school groups, and walkers are expected to participate in the parade. Afterward, visitors can head to the Kenny Dixon Sports Complex, 824 Noble Ave., for the opening ceremonies, festival activities, and a “melting pot” of ethnic foods provided by food trucks, nonprofit groups, and churches, Rebecca says. Food offerings in the past have included Caribbean dishes, tamales, gourmet corn dogs, Italian sausage, and more.
Music from the 1950s to ’80s, provided by Cactus Jack and the Cadillacs, will highlight the street dance, and the festival will culminate with fireworks slated to begin at 9pm.
The festival is a Sumter County Tourism Development Council event, funded by a TDC grant, vendor application fees, and support from city employees.
“This event would not be possible without the city of Bushnell public works,” says Rebecca, noting the importance of employee involvement. “They’re instrumental in helping the day go off without a hitch.”
Want to be in the parade?
Bushnell Fall Festival coordinator Rebecca Morrison says the cutoff date to be in the parade is Oct. 15. Those interested may call her at 352.874.5175 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.