The Valdosta Daily Times
The Flatlanders Fall Frolic held this weekend continued a tradition started 43 years ago.
“I had been going to art shows throughout Georgia,” said Helen Strickland, who, along with her husband, John, and two other couples, Bob and Elnore Ragsdale and Loyd and Margaret-Anne Shaw, started the first Flatlanders Fall Frolic. “When I went to enough of them, I thought Lakeland should have one.”
Strickland, who had a few artists in her family, grew up with an appreciation for art and artists. After securing a hay barn to house it and a group of artists to present their works, the first festival was a success and they've been going on ever since.
The festival has changed throughout the years. At one time, there was a street dance involved. Other years found gospel singing to be a major highlight. This year, the festival brought back Youth Games along with a Saturday morning 5K and added a kayak and canoe race for Sunday.
It's also changed locations, going from a hay barn to a Boy Scout camp to its current location at the Threatte Center. It's also become a part of the local community, with the Lanier County Lion's Club, the Lanier County Chamber of Commerce and Lanier Family Connections taking the main roles in hosting, funding and putting on the festival.
The money raised from the festival goes to funding programs in the community. Past Frolics have helped fund the Mock Interview Program, where graduating seniors go through mock interviews and resume critiquing, and has helped sponsor Leadership Lanier and local literacy and school-supply programs.
But with all of the changes, some things have stayed the same, like the emphasis on arts and crafts.
“We have some wonderful people. They come back year after year.”
For Strickland, the people are the reason she has kept planning the festival all these years. She's had a hand in everything from finding locations to host
it, to finding vendors and artists, to editing the Flatlander cookbooks. In recent years, she's taken a back seat to planning, leaving more and more responsibility with the next generation of her family.
“I enjoy seeing families come and enjoy it, and I enjoy seeing it be successful. And I enjoy seeing people discover new artists.”
New artists like Gelena Goddard. After being an artist in the kitchen for years, she decided to take her speciality, sugared peppers, out to the public.
“I had been making them and giving them as gifts for years,” said Goddard, who sells them as GG's Sugared Peppers.
She heard about the festival from a friend, Vicki Edwards. After suggesting to Goddard that she take her peppers, Edwards took her own advice, bringing an array of whole cakes and cake slices.
“It's my first year here,” said Edwards. “I'm enjoying it. Flatlanders has been good for me.”