Morgan County’s largest festival is coming back after missing last year because of concerns with COVID-19.

According to Bostwick City Council member and chairperson of the Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival, Angie Howard, the Cotton Gin Festival committee in May agreed to hold the festival again this year.

Howard said the 2021 festival will be held on Oct. 23, breaking with the tradition of holding the festival the first Saturday in November. Howard said Oct. 23 is an off week for the University of Georgia football team and it allows the festival to use a parking agency out of Athens for the more than 1,000 cars and trucks that travel to Bostwick the day of the festival. The last festival, in 2019, utilized the parking agency and filled the Ruark Sod Farm with vehicles for the festival. “We want to do that again,” said Howard.

She also said the off day for the football game will make the closure of Georgia Highway 83 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. more palatable for drivers. During a game day, she says, “if we close Highway 83 traffic is horrible.”

Since Bostwick resident June Whittaker started the festival 31 years ago, the Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival has exploded regionally in popularity and in visitors. Howard estimates that now between 5,000 and 7,000 people attend annually. She said the committee and the town welcomed the opportunity to hold the festival again after last year’s closure. “I felt a loss not doing it last year. There was a sadness in the community. It’s like a family reunion.”

Howard expects more than 100 vendors to participate this year and the Bostwick Cotton Gin will be operational during the festival. The annual Tractor Parade begins at 11 a.m.

Howard has been the chairman for the festival since 2000 and has marveled at its growth. “It’s about farming heritage. This area has been known for cotton farming.”

The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Howard estimates that 25 to 30 volunteers keep things running. Funds from the festival have gone to the complete renovation of the Susie B. Agnes Hotel in downtown Bostwick and have been used for the town’s park renovations and to place Christmas lights on downtown businesses.

“We put every bit of it back into the community,” says Howard.

Parking at the festival is $5 and wagon rides from the parking area to the festival will be available. Howard says this year there will be sanitation stations available and organizers are encouraging people to social distance. Howard says the town looks forward to its biggest “family reunion.”

“People who used to live here come back,” she says. “It’s become a tradition.”

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