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Galivants Ferry Stump draws in big names

Some might wonder what it is about a tiny town that doesn't even have a real traffic signal that draws so many well-known figures.

Before he was the vice president, Joe Biden was there; so were Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges and Gov. Mark Sanford, among many other politicos.

Its very schedule used to revolve around Sen. Fritz Hollings' convenience.

It's the Galivants Ferry Stump, a biennial political tradition that is a South Carolina family's very heritage.

"It's a service that we do," said Russell Holliday, whose family has put on the stump event for four generations, with the fifth beginning to get involved now.

This year, the political festival features Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, the No. 4-ranked Democrat in the House just behind Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who is the majority whip and will also be a guest speaker at this year's stump.

They'll speak May 3 in the parking lot of Pee Dee Farms, the century-old general store in Galivants Ferry, amid a traditional rural-celebration atmosphere with chicken bog and clog dancing, bluegrass music, funnel cakes and the political speeches - literally from a real stump - by local, state and national Democratic candidates.

"Galivants Ferry is a century-old tradition of Democrats and Democratic candidates getting together to talk politics and enjoy chicken bog," Clyburn said. "It is a tradition that I rarely miss. This year, I am pleased to be bringing my colleague House Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson to speak at the stump.

"I know his home state of Connecticut has nothing that compares to Galivants Ferry. We are going to show him true Southern hospitality and retail politics at its best."

The Galivants Ferry Stump has been held for more than 134 years, but the oldest announcement the Holliday family has for the event is from an 1876 newspaper. It's the oldest consistently running event of its kind in the nation, and Russell Holliday said it's a South Carolina legacy.

Holliday said it's the last remaining event of its kind, though stump events used to be the best - really the only - way politicians could reach larger audiences.

"It's nationally recognized, but it's local," she said.

"Galivants Ferry is a dot on the map. To get these kinds of guests, that is a big deal."

Larson could not be reached this week for comment on the stump.

Holliday said the most important part of the event isn't the stumping, but what the mingling candidates say to people when they are "eyeball to eyeball, as my father used to say."

That's when people really start to take measure of the candidates, she said, and have the chance to interact in a way they don't at fundraisers and other events.

Larson is in his sixth House term, and also serves on the Ways and Means Committee and the subcommittees on Trade and Select Revenue Services.

Holliday said he has been a leader in discussions about alternate energy, including hydrogen and fuel-cell technology.

Sally Howard, a local political activist and the spokeswoman for the stump, said the event is attended as much by Republicans as by Democrats, and is also a family event to which everyone is welcome.