Did y’all make it to Chiaha this year?

Even though the event’s actual given Christian name on its birth certificate is Chiaha Harvest Fair, everyone in Rome just calls it Chiaha.

For those who don’t know. It’s an arts and craft festival held at Ridge Ferry Park annually and it’s a good time. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular events of the year.

I thought we’d get rained out this year but praise the Lord, Saturday morning dawned and it wasn’t pouring down rain. And Sunday was even better.

Here are some of the highlights (for me) from this year’s event ...

1. The people — Chiaha is all about seeing a ton of folks you know. It’s about seeing families and reuniting with friends. You get to catch up and chat for a minute. If you’re lucky enough to know a ton of great people like I do, then you stop every few steps and talk to someone different. On Saturday I got to see Art Newell, John Schroeder, Molly Lopez, Carol Willis, Collin and Lenora Doss, Jim and Cathy Powell, Dottie Coalson Taylor, Bryan Mullins, Crews Holbrook, Michele and Dustin Rikard, Andy and Tracy Kight, Dave Roberson, Luke Chaffin and Jeb Arp, Devon Smyth and a ton of other folks whose names I can’t remember but who will no doubt message me on social media letting me know that I left them out of this column. Sorry, y’all.

2. The food — Y’all know I love to eat and Chiaha always has some pretty great food. There were several vendors out there with all sorts of good food. Speakcheesy (gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches) had a long line in front of their truck. Jamwich had a tent as well. There was also barbecue, Brunswick stew, those spiral potato things, cotton candy, even seafood etouffee and the famous Chiaha kettle corn and hot apple cider. Swift and Finch Coffee had their very cool truck parked out there and the owner, Ellie was greeting everyone with a wonderful smile and tasty beverages. I bought a bag of pork rinds, a roasted corn soaked in butter and the best fried turkey leg you’ve ever tasted. That thing was massive. I can’t remember the vendor selling those and I apologize for that but if you’re the one who made those gigantic fried turkey legs, please know that y’all are doing the Lord’s work.

3. The music — One of the coolest things about Chiaha is that throughout the festival there’s live music being played on the big stage as people are milling about. You can even sit in front of the stage and just enjoy the performances. While everyone sounded great, I have to mention Kindred Fire. They’re a duo comprised of Austen Earp and Haley Smith. Y’all if you haven’t listened to them, drop what you’re doing (keep reading this column) and go look em up. They’re insanely talented. And their biggest fan in all of Rome, Georgia is Terra Turner, a vet tech at Culbreth Carr Watson Animal Clinic. There was also a girl who performed after they did (I believe her name was Haley Pendleton) and she was so good, too. Over the entire weekend, performers included Muletide Perkins, Jule Medders, Scott Thompson, Thunderbolt Patterson, Lucas Smith and others. The organizers did a great job putting the lineup together.

4. The vendors — I always love the variety of things you can see and buy at Chiaha. From woodwork to art to jewelry and all sorts of cool crafts, there’s something for everyone. Here were a few of my favorites: Jennifer McNeil’s beautiful wooden flowers are simply gorgeous. Raven Ayer’s jewelry is so unique and beautiful. Look her up on Instagram and buy something for someone you love. I guarantee they’ll love you even more. Ryan Smith‘s photography is always one of the most popular booths at Chiaha. His images of Rome are stunning. I think every Rome resident should have a Ryan Smith photo somewhere in their house. Let’s get that trend started. Zelma’s Jams and Jellies is another must-have. She has so many great flavor combinations. The DIGS organization always has the most whimsical and colorful booth. All their artwork and crafts are made by local adults with developmental delays. The money made from the sale of their items goes back to providing resources and activities to help these adults be more independent. Please support them if you can. There was a guy selling honey infused with Sriracha sauce and ghost peppers. That was pretty interesting.

4. The Organizers — The people who put Chiaha together do a heck of a job. Despite a little rain and a little mud, the event was still extremely well organized and enjoyable for visitors. Even simple things stood out to me, like some of the organizing committee greeting guests when you first walk in. The lady taking admission was so friendly and sweet to me. That’s a wonderful touch. Many of them — such as Bill Byington and Emily and Bryan Johnson, wore Chiaha shirts and walked around making sure things were running smoothly and people were having a good time. That seems like a small thing but it makes a difference to visitors to walk in and see these smiles and friendly faces greeting them.

My hat’s off to everyone involved in organizing Chiaha. Planning a huge outdoor event cannot be easy. But they do an amazing job. People come from all over the region to attend Chiaha and as a Rome resident it makes me so proud to say it takes place in my town. If you’ve never been, put it on your calendar for next year.

Get you some kettle corn and a giant fried turkey leg and enjoy one of Rome’s treasures.

Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.

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