The Birth of the Bluffton Village Festival
The Bluffton Vignette by Betsy Thayer
id you ever wonder why or how the second Saturday in May became a very special day for Bluffton? We owe it all to a petite brunette named Babbie Guscio, who dared to envision the community we all love coming together to share a day of local culture and artistic talent.
Babbie and her husband, Don, a landscape architect, had lived in Atlanta, GA, and Paris, France, before settling down next to the marsh and Intracoastal Waterway at Buckingham.
As their three children grew older, they worried about the lack of cultural experiences and exposure for them and others in our area. They decided to open a small gift shop that would display and become an outlet for paintings and hand crafted items that otherwise might never be seen by the public, and thus “The Store” was created.
But the effervescent Babbie had a dream of something even bigger and the idea of the Bluffton Village Festival was born. It took a lot of organization and hard work to convince town officials and wary participants that a festival would work. “Some people looked at me like I had three heads when I first explained what I wanted to do,” Babbie said. “With others, I had to beg and plead to get them to join us. There were a few outsiders that asked me where Bluffton was and said that they had never heard of it,” she said indignantly.
“I knew that the second Saturday in May of 1979 could be a milestone for Bluffton and the night before, I was a nervous wreck. I kept hopping in and out of bed to peer out the window to see if it was going to rain. I had nightmares that the artists and entertainers wouldn’t show up and if they did, no one would come to see them.” Babbie said, pacing as she told the story.
“The morning finally came and it was beautiful,” she exclaimed, her eyes shining behind her big rimmed glasses. “There weren’t as many participants as there are now and when we set up the tables and tents, we had to spread them out to cover the two block area at the end of Calhoun Street. The ladies of the Episcopal and the Methodist churches sold delicious lunches and the Marine Rescue Squad had their now famous fried chicken dinners.”
“Did you know that the man who sells Turkish rugs has come back every year? He always wants the spot in front the Scott’s big house, so that he can hang his rugs on the fence,” Babbie went on. “Jacob Preston was there with his potter’s wheel and Mary Johnson with her shell crafts. Sandy Banks hung beautiful stained glass art from the big oak in front of the Church of the Cross. The Senior Citizens group had made all kinds of crafts, as had the ladies of the Auxiliary of the St. Andrews Catholic Church.”
Babbie chuckled as she remembers. “Bubba Crosby had brought over a big flat bed truck to use as a stage. I had been the high bidder for the Savannah String Quartet at the Savannah Symphony. There were comments from the crowd like: charming, a naive innocence, and great for Bluffton.” Babbie clasped her hands in front of her and beamed. “It exceeded all my expectations. Personally, I thought it was glorious and decided to do it again the next year, and the next, and...”