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Aynor Hoe-Down: A big time in a small town

The annual Aynor Harvest Hoe-Down Festival marks an annual rite of autumn in the western corner of Horry County, off U.S. 501.

Last week, Phyllis Morrison, a lifelong Horry County resident and the coordinator of the festival for at least eight years, gave some lowdown on this 33rd edition of the daylong hoe-down, which opens with a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday in Aynor Town Park.

Question | How many weeks or months in advance do you find yourself in full gear for hoe-down planning?

Answer | At least back to July, and part of June. Actually I start on it in January, but as far as full months, it starts in July and all of August.

Q. | What’s the biggest part of stringing together all the festival elements such as the parade?

A. | I have a good chairman for the parade. ... The biggest part I help with is helping the crafts person with the vendors, and arranging other things such as the port-a-johns and making sure the bleachers are brought in from the town’s parks and recreation department, and getting this and that ready.

Q. | How did you first assist with other hoe-downs?

A. | I did craft spaces first, then I got somebody else to do crafts, then I gradually became the coordinator of it all.

Q. | What’s new on the menu of things to consume and consider across the festival this year?

A. | We have some different food vendors and some different crafters. ... We usually have about 12 or 13 food booths ... and about 150 to 160 crafts and arts booths.

Q. | What reigns as the most memorable hoe-down for you?

A. | Probably the 30th, in 2009. ... It was like a big milestone for the hoe-down festival. It’s been going for 30 years, and we had a nice beach band. It was a good year.

Q. | How special a flavor do the variety of musicians add to each festival, especially for the street dance that winds up each affair, this year with the Party Favor Band?

A. | We used to have Southern Blue for several years, then we went with a beach band, then a band from Charleston. For the last couple of years, it has been a different band.

Q. | What trends become evident year after year in your eyes of overseeing the whole hoe-down?

A. | Our festival seems to be more well known, not only in the area, but in several states. We have a vendor from Florida, and we usually have several from North Carolina and a couple from Georgia. With visitors, I know we’ve had them from up north, and a couple from Canada here. We had one from England, two years ago.

Q. | What are your favorite parts of the festival, if you even have time to indulge?

A. | I like some of the really neat crafts ... and the parade, especially when it doesn’t coincide with the Shriners’ convention down at the beach. We love the Shriners; to me, they make the parade.

Q. | With the Pilot Club of Aynor sponsoring the hoe-down each year, how do the proceeds from the festival reach into the community all year ‘round?

A. | The money we make from the hoe-down goes back into the community. We use it for scholarships ... senior citizens’ parties, special needs children in Aynor, and for bike rodeos and giving away helmets.

Q. | Besides all the volunteering from the Pilot Club, how big a townside effort turns out to make each hoe-down happen?

A. | The town comes out and cleans up the park, cleans up the bleachers, moves tables out from under the shelter and provides electricity.

Q. | What’s the message for everyone to head down the hoe-down?

A. | It’s a big time in a small town.