New Orleans based band, Cowboy Mouth on stage in concert (Photo by Stephen Klein)
Okra Strut organizers expect to see new and returning guests at the free festival this weekend to raise money to put back into the community.
All the money raised will be reinvested into the town through charitable donations to scholarships, nonprofits and town beautification projects.
With 90 craft vendors, a showcase of both local and nationally known bands and the longest-running parade in South Carolina, the event has grown in scope from its original founding by the Irmo Woman’s Club 48 years ago.
The club started the festival to raise money for a new library in the 1970s. It wasn’t until radio personality Gene McKay made a joke about the name of a general store in downtown Irmo that the festival adopted the name and gained popularity.
The long-standing tradition of frying okra for the fundraiser took seven years and thousands of servings of fried okra. But Irmo’s first library was eventually opened in a remodeled trailer.
“My children marched in the parade when they were little, so this event is something that is very near and dear to my heart,” said John Lindower, this year’s Okra Strut commission chairman.
Lindower said he’s looking forward to having his son and grandson join him on “such a beautiful day in Irmo.”
Entrance into the event is free, and guests can purchase food, beverages and tickets for amusement rides.
New Orleans-based “rock-and-roll gumbo band” Cowboy Mouth will be headlining the event’s opening night Friday.
“The band will put on a show with enough electricity to light up a city block,” said Cowboy Mouth long-time manager Stephen Klein.
This part of South Carolina is one of the group’s favorite places to play, Klein said.
Robin Faith Simmons recently moved to Irmo, just off Broad River Road, and is looking forward to attending her first Strut. She is most excited about seeing Cowboy Mouth play, as this will be her 22nd time seeing them in concert.
Simmons has a few friends coming to town to attend the festival with her.
“I am looking forward to seeing the difference between this festival and others like it in South Carolina,” Simmons said.
The festival is expecting about 25,000 attendees over two days, coming for the live music, food and other entertainment. While the festival still does offer its iconic fried okra, there are plenty of other Southern specialties guests can enjoy.