Mine for gems at annual festival in Van Wyck

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By Michele Roberts

VAN WYCK – The community of Van Wyck will be dishing out lots of Southern hospitality Saturday at the annual Celebrate Van Wyck Festival.

Olympic champion Shawn Crawford, a Van Wyck native and graduate of Indian Land High School, is expected to make a quick visit home sometime during the festival, said resident Betty Broome.

Crawford, 30, won the silver medal in the 200-meter race in the Olympic Games in Beijing this year. He won two medals, including the gold medal in the 200-meter race, in the 2004 games.

This is the 10th year the Van Wyck Community Club has held the event, and director Richard Vaughan said there will be plenty of family-oriented activities that will appeal to young and old alike. There will be children's games, train rides, a gem mine, live entertainment and a car show, just to name a few.

"The gem mine is very popular," he said. "Several years ago we built a mine shack, complete with a water wheel and trough. Before the festival, we go to the mountains and buy gems, then put them in bags with sand."

The bags are sold for $5 apiece, and participants then get to sort through the bags in water trays, just as you would at any gem mine, Vaughan said.

"These are nice-quality gems," he said. "And it's a lot of fun to see what you get."

The train rides take place on a train built from an old lawnmower. Three cars are attached to the "engine" and Vaughan said the rides are a favorite of children who attend the festival.

"They love it," he said. "And we also have a moonwalk, which is another favorite."

The car show, put on by the Dixieland Cruisers car club, will feature cars that range in price from $2,000 to $250,000, said club president Jim Hill.

"You'll see all types and varieties of cars out here," he said. "We have cars from the early 1900s right on up to 2008. This year we're hoping to have around 150 cars on display."

Food vendors will have barbecue chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers for sale, and craft vendors include basket makers, jewelry makers and sellers of Catawba Indian pottery.

WRHI 107.1 FM in Rock Hill will broadcast live during the festival and the Straight Shot band will provide entertainment throughout the day. Door prizes will also be given away.

Proceeds from the festival will be used in part for operating expenses of Van Wyck's Community Club and to benefit the town's special projects, which include the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

A scholarship was also set up in honor of Gerald Sullivan, who was president of the Dixieland Cruisers when he died two years ago.

"This is a really great festival," Hill said. "It's a good time to come out and meet your neighbors and its just a good day of fun for any age. The Vaughans and the entire committee do such a wonderful job of putting on this event and I encourage everyone to come out and participate.'

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, contact Vaughan at 285-1076.