Chitlin' Strut ready to return in Salley

Nov. 23—SALLEY — One of the South's most popular small-town festivals is on track to take place this weekend, with the Chitlin' Strut returning from two years in pandemic exile.

This is the event's 55th year (not counting the loss of 2020 and 2021), and a carnival is set to be part of this year's festivities. The fun is to run from Friday through Sunday, with Saturday as the peak of activity.

Salley's population is probably just above 490, according to Gene Fogle, the town's fire chief, and things change radically during the festival. "There's a huge crowd when it's a good, beautiful day, and there's a large, large crowd when there's a bad day," he said.

Fogle estimated high-level attendance at 40,000 and low-level attendance (as in the case of hard rain) at 25,000.

"Our big attraction this year is a carnival," said Salley Mayor LaDonna Hall, citing some features courtesy of Big Round Wheel, with an assortment of kid-friendly rides and games to be offered all three days.

Activities are spread over dozens of acres and much of the town, with much of the friendly commotion taking place in and around the buildings that once comprised Salley High School. Salley Baptist Church is a nearby landmark.

Partygoers begin arriving as early as Monday, and some turn it into an upscale tailgating-style event, arriving with RVs equipped for several days of room and board. Official festival activities begin Friday, with the carnival running from 1 to 10 p.m., and a block party is also set for Friday, from 5 to 10 p.m.

Saturday has a variety of options. Chitlin' plates, at $20 each (boiled or fried), will be offered starting at 8 a.m., and the parade, on Main Street, is set for 10 a.m. The carnival is to run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and a car and motorcycle show is to run from noon to 5 p.m. Disc jockeys will be in gear on the entertainment stage from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and all-day options include a souvenir shop, arts and crafts and concession stands. Sunday is to have the carnival open from 1 to 5 p.m.

Access to cash is a concern for some festival participants, as Salley does not have a bank, and the nearest bank (a Security Federal) is about seven miles away, in Wagener. Plans are to have an ATM at the souvenir shop, near Salley's fire department.

The Food Network offers an explanation of the food at the core of the festivities. "In the U.S., chitterlings are associated with the American South and soul food. Consumption of chitterlings was partly born out of necessity; enslaved people often subsisted on the meat scraps leftover from hog killings. But cooking with offal such as hog intestines is also part of Western Africans' whole animal cookery and preparing chitlins was a way for enslaved people to uphold those culinary traditions," it notes.

The summary adds, "During the Jim Crow era, restaurants and music venues that served chitlins became synonymous with safe places for black performers; collectively, these places became known as the 'Chitlin Circuit.' The town of Salley, South Carolina bills itself as the chitlin capital of the world; since the 1960's, it has hosted the Chitlin' Strut, an annual festival where chitterlings are celebrated and served."

Details are at 803-258-3485 and from the town hall, at 161 Railroad Ave.