Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

THE 1974 SAINT PATRICK'S FESTIVAL


County Music, Politics and Bygone Traditions

Forty years ago, the organizers of the 9th annual Saint Patrick's Festival put together one of the most diversified festivals until that time.  There was music, politics, kids and the usual traditions as well as many bygone ones which took place in buildings which are no longer standing or are now vacant.  A few events during the 1974 festival were rare events which took place only once or only a few times.

Festival Chairman and Citizens and Southern banker, Jim Park, led an army of volunteers in planning the festival.

The first event, The Leprechaun Contest,  took place in the city auditorium.  A crowd of doting parents and apathetic and tormented siblings gathered in the large  auditorium, which has now been reduced in size to the current city council chamber.  The winners were Kip Loftin, Chad Kelly, Greg Yancey, Angela White, Toni Walker and Allison Smith.  

The first, and certainly the most colorful and controversial,  politician to speak was Lt. Governor and former Governor, Lester Maddox.  Maddox told the capacity crowd at Brown's Restaurant that he was grateful for small cities like Dublin whose town spirit led to such a wonderful celebration.

"If all the cities in America were New Yorks, Chicagos, Philadephias and Atlantas,  we would have lost what has made America great for so long," Maddox proclaimed.   

The annual Kite Flying Contest, now held at Springdale Baptist Church, was then held in a field at the corner of the intersection of Hillcrest Drive and Claxton Dairy Road  near the current Friendly Gus Store. Mike McCarn and Pam Brooks were awarded a prize for the smallest and most unique kites.  Ben Gay, who had nothing else to do, walked from his home across the street with his kite and took home the prize for the highest flying kite.

The bowling tournament, a long time St. Patrick's event, was held in the once popular Laurens Lanes, which was located in a building behind the Ford dealership on East Jackson Street.  

Some new and short lived events were the Square Dance at the National Guard Armory and the selling of ice cream on the streets by  downtown merchants.   All those not wearing green were subjected to an unlawful, symbolic arrest and put in the stockade on the courthouse square or fined the paltry and customary sum of 25 cents. There was a Sportsman's Club Barbecue at the Ag Center, an Art Show on the  lawn of City Hall and a  Flea Market, next to the Pizza Hut.

A twirling competition, under the direction of Drum Majorettes of America, was held at the  West Laurens Gym, Gaye Baggett, Robin Johnson and Kathy Hood were the age group winners in this new event.  

Gaye Baggett became one of the few double contest winners when she was crowned Little Miss  Dublin.  Scott Anderson was the selection as Little Mr. Dublin. 

To all those who didn't need glasses, it was good news when the Womanless Beauty Pageant was called off.

An perennial favorite, the Pancake Supper, was held in the now vacant Central Elementary Auditorium at the corner of North Calhoun and Woodrow streets.  Oh, by the way,  tickets went for  $1.50.

Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, arguably the most popular country music instrumental group in Country Music history, entertained a large crowd at the West Laurens Gym. 

The Joint Civic Luncheon featured U.S. Senator Sam Nunn from Perry.  The iconic and respected Senator by both sides of the aisle, could have used the same speech today, four decades later.  

Nunn told the civic servants gathered at the Dublin Country Club, " The most important legislation is a budget reform bill to assure that the federal government does not spend out of bottomless budget."  Nunn also warned of eminent problems with trade deficits, strife in the Millde East and the rising cost of energy. 

Mary Vogel, described as an "angel of mercy," was chosen as the Senior Citizen of the Year.  A four-decade leader of the Department of Family and Children Services, Essie Mae Cobb, was selected as the Woman of the Year.  A Boy Scout leader's leader, Joe Wilson, was named the Man of the Year.  The Youth of the Year was Delane Holland, of East Laurens High School.   Dr. James F. O'Daniel was given a  special award, while ceaseless public servants, Ed Martin and Amy Cannon were named Honorary Leprechauns.  

The St. Patrick's Parade, under the direction of  Dot Kersey, Clarence Jackson and John Reed Deamer, proudly presented 23 professional floats, 12 non professional floats and 13 bands from local and surrounding schools.  

William Andre, whose favorable first impression of Dublin and Laurens County led to the location of Laurens Park Mill ( later Mohawk Carpet) in East Dublin, was the Grand Marshal of the parade. 

Any parade, especially in an election year, draws a a plethora of popular  politicians.  State Senator Hugh Gillis, Georgia Comptroller General Johnny Caldwell, U.S. Congressman W.S. Stuckey and State Representative Terry Coleman waived to and smiled at as many voters as they could in the Super Saturday parade. 

One of the parade's most unusual entries was a pack of Irish Wolf Hounds.  It was my last parade as a member of the Dublin High School Band. 

The 1974 St. Patrick's Festival Queen, Debra Mullis, was crowned by 1973 winner, Melanie Suit, daughter of gubernatorial candidate and WSB newsman, Hal Suit.  Diane Harden and Susan Stanley were the runners up.   Stephanie Powell garnered the crown as Miss Colleen, with Robin Johnson and Karen Page being honored as 1st and 2nd runners up. 

In a rare bit of scheduling, the 10-day festival, which featured many events which are no longer held,  ended on St. Patrick's day with the conclusion of the bowling and golf tournaments. 

 

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