Die hard South Carolina Democrats, some claiming to be Blue Dogs, gathered outside the Pee Dee Farms General Store at the historic Galivants Ferry Stump yesterday to hear stump-thumping speeches from candidates who are determined to end the days of Republican domination in Horry County, home to the resort town of Myrtle Beach.
As a blue grass band played and sang from a stage fronted with hay bales and festooned with red, white and blue bunting, local school girls tap danced to their music and the political candidates worked the crowd, pausing to talk and shake hands with anyone who would listen.
"It's southern bluegrass, that's all it is," said Mattie Johnson, who's been coming to the biennial event for years, referring to the bluegrass. "I love it."
Kids took pony rides, petted the goats and got their faces painted, and their parents sampled South Carolina's traditional chicken bog, chomped on fried chicken and fried catfish and fried zucchini, and watched as a sawgrass basket weaver from Charleston demonstrated her craft.
The speeches, of course, were the big draw for the day. But before they began, a minister gave a prayer as the crowd stood silent. After expressing thanks for the beautiful sunny and warm weather, and for bringing everyone together, he asked God to help provide leaders of strong moral character who looked out for others, not just themselves and their cronies.
"I never knew there was such a thing as a Democratic prayer or a Republican prayer," said the straw hatted MC in his best South Carolina drawl. "But that was about as close to a Democratic prayer as I've ever heard." The big crowd roared its approval.
Then, after the Star Spangled Banner was sung by the star of the Carolina Opry, the speeches began.
“There ain’t but one thing I know that’s more beautiful than a blue sky,” said U.S. Rep. James Clyburn D-SC. “[It’s] a blue state.” Clyburn predicted victory in November for Democrats.
“We’re going to get the Congress back and we’re going to get the White House back,” he promised before urging the gubernatorial candidates to make education their top priority. “Let people know what you are going to do for their children,” he said.
In a barnburner of a speech, State Democratic Chair Trav Robertson rallied Democrats, blaming Republicans for the state’s high energy bills, lack of affordable health care for many, and for a “culture of corruption that runs deep and wide.” Said Robertson, “It’s one set of rules for them and another set of rules for you.”
Democratic candidates for every job from governor to school board joined Robertson in blaming Republicans for any and all problems facing the state, and beseeched attendees to vote for them in the June 12 primary.
It was the 142nd year for the Gallivants Ferry Stump, a tradition that's been kept alive by continuing generations of the same family.
Leila Johnson, 101, told a local newspaper reporter about being at the Stump in the 1940s, recalling seeing Ernest “Fritz” Hollings speak before being elected as South Carolina's governor and then U.S. Senator. “I haven’t been able to get out and mingle with the crowds in however many years,” she said. “But I’ve always tried to keep up with who was running for office and what their beliefs are and what they’re trying to accomplish.”