Valdosta Daily Times

October 14, 2012

Celebrities help Nashville Harvest Festival grow

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

NASHVILLE — The next episode of “The Amazing Race” may air tonight, but Rob French’s feet weren’t hitting the ground running alongside his wife, Kelly Carrington-French, Saturday — they were sticky with grape juice.

About 100 yards away from where the pair signed photos with Rob’s monster truck, Jimmy Riffle and the cast of “Gator Boys” played with their favorite animals in an educational demonstration.

It was the first time the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce chose to hire TV celebrities to help draw a crowd to the annual Great Stompin’ Harvest Festival, and it seems the ploy worked.

“Rob and Kelly and the Gator Boys have gone over

well,” Chamber Executive Director Crissy Staley said. “Now that they’ve been so successful, I guess we’re going to scratch our heads and decide what to do next year because once you start something like that, you’ve got to keep it up.”

The Chamber is talking about the possibility of bringing a monster truck show to next year’s event, but the festival Saturday was already an achievement.

Sixty vendors manned booths at the event, and Staley’s estimate was that visitors were well into the thousands.

“The population of Nashville is just over 5,000,” Staley said. “We’re definitely pleased and excited.”

The festival was “kind of a two-fold event,” Staley said. Horse Creek Winery hosted a three-act outdoor concert featuring Nashville country and folk rock group Southern Thunder, Tifton party band East Beach Blues and classic rock band StoneEcho from upstate South Carolina. Tickets sold for $15.

Visitors to the Nashville square could take advantage of numerous other attractions, including a mechanical bull, bounce houses and a riding lawnmower train for children, homemade goods, facepainting, barbecue and of course, grape-stomping.

Rob and Kelly French, Boston, Ga. natives,  participated in this year’s stomp. They posed for photo opportunities with their monster truck and signed signatures for visitors.

“It’s been wonderful,” Kelly French said. “The people have been really nice.”

Rob French has been driving his monster truck for 25 years, he said. While he knows which team won this season’s “Amazing Race” (the show is pre-recorded), he declined to tell The Valdosta Daily Times due to contractual obligations to secrecy.

Brothers Frank and John Newton of Moultrie saw the event online and decided to take their families out to the event. They took a break in the shade while their wives shopped together.

“I’m really impressed with Nashville,” John Newton said. “With their shops and all the friendly people.”