Rockmart’s WELSHfest has a history with bad weather. The 2018 festival was met with a downpour of rain, and this year’s guests were greeted with chilly temperatures and strong winds. However, despite the best efforts of mother nature, the event continues to flourish.
Hundreds of locals and tourists shopped from dozens of vendors that were selling goods such as festive t-shirts, cupcakes, Welsh themed souvenirs, and home-made crafts.
Outlandish and rare goods such as potato-made jewelry were available, and many booths from organizations such as the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center and the Historical Society were present to share information with guests.
Classic rock, country, and bluegrass tunes from talent such as Them Mixon Boys, the Issac Streetman Band, and Luther Mountain set the tone for the day’s activities. The men in kilts showcase, a bus tour to the Historic Van Wert Church, and a history of Wales speech were just a few of the events scheduled for this year’s festival. Younger attendees could be seen snacking on food or working off their energy in the bounce house.
The bonniest knees contest once again proved to be a staple of the event, with those who take pride in the quality of their legs being pitted against each other to decide the pair of knees that were truly the bonniest of all. Each contestant, clad in a kilt, is caressed by a blindfolded judge until a winner is determined.
Despite primarily celebrating the Welsh, the March 16 event proved to be a mixing pot of culture. The Ballet Ritmo Latino Dancers were given the opportunity to showcase numerous dances originated from Mexico and Cuba while foods and music from various countries and cultures were enjoyed around them.
While events like the WELSHfest are designed to attract tourism, the city does genuinely owe appreciation to the Wales immigrants that settled here. Seaborn Jones, the man who brought the railroad to town and originally created the city of Rock Mart, was a Welshmen. Other influential Welsh citizens such as Joseph Davis would later move in and contribute by revitalizing the slate industry and allowing the city to flourish.
Even today, the stacked slate buildings and churches, the split slate roofs, the state of our slate industry, and a city with green spaces at its core are evidence of Welsh innovation and contribution. Neighboring Georgia counties may have their own cultural celebrations, but only Rockmart dedicates a weekend to Wales and its people.