On Saturday, March 5, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Friends for Satsuma Schools will present the 4th annual Swamp Fest to benefit Satsuma City Schools. The event will be held on the campus of Satsuma High School, 1 Gator Drive, off U.S. Highway 43.

As of 2015, according to Shirley Presnall, FFSS president, the organization had donated more than $32,000 to the city schools, with most of the funds coming from Swamp Fest. Included among the gifts to the schools are two annual scholarships for Satsuma High School graduating seniors, a donation toward band uniforms and even an $800 laminator for Lee Elementary School.

Admission to the upcoming Swamp Fest, considered a day of fun for the whole family, is free, as is the stage entertainment. Funds are raised through vendor/exhibitor fees and other on-site activities.  

One such event is “Cars in the Swamp,” a display of classic and antique vehicles. Those interested in showing off their own ride pay a $25 fee when they register at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the event.

(Photo | Photo courtesy of Jo Anne McKnight) Charlie Chestang, father and leader of the band The Chestangs, will bring bluegrass and gospel to Swamp Fest March 5 as part of a strong lineup of musical entertainment.

(Photo | Photo courtesy of Jo Anne McKnight) Charlie Chestang, father and leader of the band The Chestangs, will bring bluegrass and gospel to Swamp Fest March 5 as part of a strong lineup of musical entertainment.

Another source of revenue this year is the chance to win a Kamado ceramic charcoal grill. Contributed by an anonymous donor, the grill, valued at $849, can be seen at McConaghy Drugs in Satsuma. The $1 opportunity tickets can be purchased there or at Swamp Fest.

Yet another income provider is the “Little Miss Swamp Fest” competition for Satsuma girls in grades K-6. The winner will be crowned at opening ceremonies and reign over the day’s festivities.

Perhaps the best source of income is the rental of arts and crafts and other vendor booths. These range from retail items such Scentsy and Tupperware to beautifully created, one-of-a-kind decor pieces to homemade soaps to boiled peanuts.  

Students from Satsuma High School’s art department will have an exhibit with informative displays by such charitable organizations as Helping Hands, a group of community volunteers who hand-make baby layettes and furnishings for Women’s Resource Center/Sav-A-Life in Saraland.

The lineup of entertainment, to be introduced by meteorologist Michael White of Fox10 News, includes an appearance by the Chestangs of McIntosh, Alabama. The Chestang family has been playing their gospel music with the traditional bluegrass sound all over the Southeast since 1996. They have opened for such nationally known acts as the Larry Stephenson Band and Heaven’s Mountain Band, and have performed at the Bluegrass Gospel Showcase in Nashville for the past nine years. With their guitars, fiddle, bass, mandolin, banjo and dobro, they are always a crowd-pleaser and have appeared at Swamp Fest in the past, Presnall said.

Musician Jon Miller, a native and resident of Satsuma, will also perform. Other performers include Girls of Grace, Mark Courington, Satsuma High School Jazz Band — and, drum roll — “Elvis” will be in the house and on the stage from 1:40 to 2:40 p.m., Presnall said.

A very special guest who will mingle with the crowd and greet the children is Ronald McDonald. Youngsters will also be entertained by various games and three inflatables.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase so those attending Swamp Fest can spend the entire day having fun without leaving to find lunch. One popular food booth will be that of the Satsuma Lions Club, which will be serving chicken and sausage Cajun jambalaya.

Brenda Sharp, principal for Robert E. Lee Elementary School, appreciates not only the financial impact Friends for Satsuma Schools has had on her school. Members of the group also contribute their time, energy and resources to Robert E. Lee “on a daily basis,” she said, adding “there is rarely a day when representatives of this group are not on our campus serving our teachers and/or our students in some manner. The dedication and consistency shown by [FFSS members] has had a positive impact on our school culture from year to year.”

Proceeds from Swamp Fest, Sharp said, “are donated to our schools each year to provide additional funding for technology and other innovative resources for our students. We are very thankful to this group for their servant’s heart.”

Jo Anne McKnight is a freelance writer living in Mobile County. You can read of other area activities on her community blog, joannemcknight.com.