February 27, 2021


South Carolina really knows how to have festivals!  There’s the annual Chitlin’ Strut in Salley and several Lowcountry seafood festivals.  But nothing can top the Irmo Okra Strut!  Since 1973, a late September weekend has brought everyone out to celebrate okra.  Only in 2020 was it canceled because of the COVID pandemic.

There were parades with the Irmo High School marching band, firetrucks, beauty queens—and of course, politicians.  No one halfway serious about getting elected in South Carolina would miss being seen at the Okra Strut.

Local crafts people and cooks had booths with okra cooked every way imaginable, wreaths and other crafts featuring the okra pod—sprayed gold or covered with glitter.  There were tee shirts and caps for sale, and every kind of okra trinket imaginable. Over the years, the festival stretched into two days, with a Friday night street dance.

In 2008, we decided Sam and Eli (about 3 1/2 years old) needed to be introduced to the Okra Strut.  I drove over from Nashville, Patrick and Julia brought the boys from Swannanoa—and we spent the weekend at a motel in Harbison.  We visited many Columbia and Irmo friends, ate at Lizard’s Thicket, and of course, planned to take in the Saturday Okra Strut parade. Friday evening Patrick went to get something from the car and when he got on the elevator, a familiar looking person was the other occupant.  He recognized Senator Lindsay Graham—and proceeded to speak to him.  The Senator responded cordially.The parade went off with the usual flair, until we saw Senator Graham sitting in an open convertible waving to the crowds. A small group of picketers were following him along the route protesting something or other.  Just as his car drew near us, the Senator lost his cool.  He loudly pointed at the picketers and angrily yelled a string of expletives at them.  It just wasn’t what we expected to hear from a U.S. Senator—especially at the Okra Strut.   He won re-election and over the past few years, his behavior has often reminded me of his angry outburst that Saturday morning.  Political leaders eventually do show their true colors.

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