Dave and Denise Cyprian can usually gauge the Flowertown festival by the number of cars trying to squeeze into parking spaces on their block of Richardson Avenue.
The Cyprians counted a sea of cars along the usually quiet residential neighborhood, and once the couple made their way to the festival in the early afternoon, they understood the hubbub.
“Today was a beautiful day for this, it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Denise Cyprian said. “I don’t know if it’s a record crowd or not, but there were a lot cars on our street.”
The couple were among the thousands to attend the three-day even that kicked off Friday.
On Saturday, throngs of event-goers crowded streets lined with bands, amusement rides and vendors peddling foods that thickened the early spring air with the aroma of french fries, corn dogs and other festival fare staples.
Side roads surrounding the downtown were jammed with cars that jerry-rigged parking spaces on residents’ lawns. Some cars left tire imprints in the water-logged lawns after Friday’s rainfall.
The 40-year-old annual arts and crafts street festival continues today in and around Azalea Park along Main Street in the Summerville historic district.
The fest features 180 arts and crafts booths, 150 business booths and 26 restaurant or food booths in the bloom-laden park. It started as a hometown arts and crafts show celebrating Summerville’s “Flower Town in the Pines” floral heritage, and still takes place with all the hometown atmosphere of a yard sale.
And it draws a crowd — some 200,000 people are estimated to come each year over the three-day run.
It’s a fundraiser said to bring in about $100,000 to its Summerville Family YMCA organizers, as well as $30 million to the local economy.
Several event-goers Saturday described Flowertown as an annual rite of passage, which usually gives a chance to catch up with old friends and nibble on many types of food.
For many years the Cyprians have made it a habit to stop at the festival to peruse the arts and crafts booths and grab lunch.
“We usually get something to eat and then go sit on the curb and listen to the music and watch the people go by,” Denise Cyprian said.
On Saturday the two ate chicken teriyaki before stopping to listen to some tunes.
Carolyn Colavita, 28, of West Ashley, came Saturady for her 5-year-old daughter, who was busily scoping out her next option amid the sea of amusement rides.
“This is fun for her, so it’s fun for me,” Colavita said.
Colavita said she makes it a habit to come to the Flowertown festival every year, and it also gives a chance for the family to come together.
“Today is about taking the kids on the rides and hanging out with grandma and grandpa,” Colavita said. “It has been very good and everybody is busy, but they’re all friendly as nice.”
Over the years the festival has had its share of controversies.
This year the YMCA refused at first to provide booth space for the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, because the YMCA is a Christian organization. The humanist group promotes a “non-theistic” human viewpoint that doesn’t include a deity.
The YMCA reversed its decision after the national American Humanist Association told the YMCA in a letter that the rejection “was a violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws.”
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.
Kids and rides go together at the Flowertown Festival like Summerville and azaleas. One of the kids’ favorites is the Drop Zone, which elicited a variety of reactions Saturday.×
Main Street in Summerville was packed around noon on Saturday during the Flowertown Festival.×
Children enjoy themselves on the motocycle ride.×