In a recent online poll with 343 respondents, 60% of those polled thought that the Okra Strut should be canceled for 2020. Another 29% believed that the Strut should be held as you normally would. 10% had no opinion regarding the Strut and just .01% were in favor of having a “Virtual Strut”.
The project is estimated to cost about $43,700 which includes the recording costs, video equipment and entertainment costs that could be cancelled. The commission has already contracted with entertainer Sister Hazel.
The festival, now in its 47th year, was originally planned to take place in its normal setting, with several safety measures in place. But as the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread, the festival commission decided it would be unsafe to proceed as normal.
Larry Slaughter, chairman of the Okra Strut Commission, said the festival, which usually draws thousands to Irmo, will be live-streamed on You Tube or Facebook.
Providing the community with a video version of the festival activities would avoid the huge gathering of people at the community Park of Irmo. Slaughter said such a gathering, “could give us a black eye” because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Irmo’s Mayor, Barry Walker doesn’t like the idea, mainly because of what he considered excessive costs. The project is estimated to cost about $43,700.
Walker said the project shouldn’t cost near that much.
“I don’t think the numbers are quite right,” he said.
Councilman Bill Danielson shared Walker’s concern about the spending, and also voted against the plan.
Council members Kathy Condom, Erik Sickinger and Kelly Busch voted in favor of the plan.
“It’s a good idea,” Condom said after the meeting. Video clips of area high school bands and local dance teams will run all day long and should get a lot of attention. Condom also noted that local businesses support the idea.
Sickinger said, “It’s a bit of a gamble,” but is probably the safest way to handle the festival.
“I think it’s going to be a great event,” he said.
In response to a “Letter to the Editor” Councilman Sickinger has changed his support of the “Virtual Okra Strut”.
“Frankly, the strut is still up in the air as to if it will proceed. I wanted to give every excuse, every opportunity for the strut to happen this year. It did not take me long when first moving here, to understand how important this event is to Irmo, how proud the residents are of this event. Like many other closely held traditions in family, churches, and communities, I appreciate the intrinsic value of this event.
And to be clear, much of the cost of the event was around the evening sister haxel concert. And the event was proposed as very little cost to the town ($500).
As it was presented to council, and the facts on the ground regarding revenue and expenses have changed since Tuesday. It is no longer budget neutral with little cost to the town, and I do not expect the revenue numbers to add up.
Therefore I am no longer in favor of this event as it was presented, and have asked for the mayor to call a special meeting to discuss.”
Let us know what your thoughts are on having the Okra Strut this year.