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The Vidalia Onion Festival in Vidalia, Ga., held each last weekend in April, brings in RV'ers in droves for the annual four-day event where the smell of deep frying sweet onions is in the air while just about everywhere in the city there is fun and entertainment connected to this annual festival.

OPEN ROAD LIFESTYLE

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Follow The Aroma Of Sweet Onions This April 

Attracting Full-time & Part-time RV'ers, The Vidalia Onion Festival Celebrates The Sweet Taste Of This State Vegetable  At The Height Of Harvesting Season

A Teen Miss Vidalia Onion Beauty Pageant winner with Yumion the masoct [Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival]

The Vidalia Onion Festival in Vidalia, Ga., held each last weekend in April, brings in RV'ers in droves for the annual four-day event where the smell of deep frying sweet onions is in the air while just about everywhere in the city there is fun and entertainment connected to this annual fest. Small communities, towns and cities across the USA hold all kinds of festivals, each attracting full-time and part-time RV'ers, who enjoy the tastes, sights and sounds, and – usually – parking places while they are there. Such celebrations are usually due to some local historical event, or an amazing site, product or individual. The City of Vidalia's celebration is all about the Vidalia onion. 

The city is surrounded by fields of these growing sweet-tasting onions. April is the height of the harvesting season. Fortunately for campers, there are several great RV parks and campgrounds within easy reach, including one small city RV park, right in town. The 2018 Vidalia Onion Festival is expected to attract 40,000 visitors, according to Executive Director Paula Toole of the Downtown Association of Vidalia. This year will see the 41st Vidalia Onion Festival held from April 26-29. Unique in their taste, desired for their sweetness and lack of smarting eyes when sliced, this State Vegetable of Georgia is grown only in a specific district where dirt lacks certain sulfides. Grown are different Vidalia varieties of the hybrid yellow granex variety and all around, you will see onion bulk sales at discounted prices during the festival. And everywhere at this citywide event, you will spot the Vidalia Onion Festival Mascot, “Yumion” who has a traditional spot at the head of the annual parade.

In celebration of the harvest, the City of Vidalia goes all out with a four-day citywide festival composed of a wide variety of fun and entertainment activities. It begins with beauty pageant selections of Miss and Little Miss Vidalia Queens-- with local young misses vying for these titles, and continues to the Vidalia Onion Parade, a street dance, fireworks, 5K/15K Runs, and numerous other celebrations. The Vidalia Onion Festival Air Show is always a terrific performance when it comes around. In 2017, a very exciting air show was based on the movie: Tora, Tora,Tora with flights of “Zeros” flying across the city, simulating the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, this year no show is planned. The next planned air show will feature the Blue Angels in 2020.

Saturday night concert at the festival [Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival]
Little Ocmulgee Campsite [Photo Credit: Hemsworth Communications]

At the same time, an Arts and Crafts Festival brings in artists and crafts people from throughout the Eastern U.S. After free parking, a nominal charge gets you past the ticket gate where you can sight-see, buy, and snack to your heart's content while admiring a wide variety of arts and crafts, including paintings, jewelry, furniture, wood carvings, knick-knacks, fresh veggies and fruits, and – of course – bags of Vidalia onions. There are cultural activities seen as well, including the making of soaps (the old fashioned way), sugarcane syrup, open fire baked biscuits and other foods, along with attractions for children, music and dancing. There is a large seating area set aside for snackers and the weary beside a bandstand where singers and bands, as well as dancers, perform. Food venders offer a wide range of foods which you can enjoy at the seating area's expansive tables, benches and chairs. The fun continues with the Vidalia Onion Festival Carnival, with rides for both children and adults. “In South Georgia, visitors will find an array of unique festivals and fairs hosted by a number of charming towns throughout the year,” said Clint Smith, general manager of Little Ocmulgee State Park & Lodge, a campground not too far from Vidalia.

It's a great time to buy Vidalia onions in bulk, at discounted prices, at stands all around the city and even in some restaurants and stores. Many temporary food stands are being operated, where fried onion rings and 'blooming' onions are cooked and served. Paula Toole says, “Our area farmers take advantage of these special bulk bag sales during the festival and the onions they sale are the freshest you'll be able to buy.” Paula is also Vidalia's Main Street Manager. Vidalia is not only a Georgia Main Street City, but a national historic Main Street City, acknowledged by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Main Street Center. You will find its many historic sites and buildings of interest, including those in and around downtown.

For overnight RV parking, the city's Sweet Onion RV Park near Vidalia's Walmart features 12, 80-ft. long sites, each with a picnic table and fire-ring and electric/water hookups. The park has no other amenities other than a large adjacent sunny parking area. The RV sites are level and shaded by tall pines. There is no check in. City Marshall Shaun Oliver (912) 537-7661 will come by to collect the parking fee of $18 per night. Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Reservations are not available for this self-park campground and there is no Sweet Onion RV Park sign. Another availability for camping may be at Lakeside Mobile Home Park, 5468 Georgia Highway 15, in Vidalia, where there may, or may not, be RV space available at the time of the festival. Before “dry parking” overnight at Walmart, be sure to check with the store management to see if it is OK.

Arts & Crafts Festival Vendor during the festivities in Vidalia [Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival]
Food creations using the sweet onion to be judged [Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival]
Wallace Adams Golf Course at Little Ocmulgee State Park [Photo Credit: Hemsworth Communications]

Be sure to visit the Vidalia Onion Museum, 100 Vidalia Sweet Onion Drive, near Southeast Technical College. Free admission allows you to learn the Vidalia onion history, and how it was first grown in the 1930's. During the festival, local museum supporters provide plates of free snacks, created with onions, of course, for you to taste. A great find is a copy of the Vidalia Onion Cookbook featuring recipes from local cooks and chefs.

Many RV'ers do not mind the 30+ mile drive from Vidalia to overnight at Little Ocmulgee State Park and Lodge in Helena because it is a delightful place to stay; a true resort, shaded by large water-oak trees draped with Spanish moss and by all pines. A wildlife refuge, this park is within the Georgia State Parks' system, but operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. As a result, it offers plenty of wildlife spotting and birding opportunities. At the park's Trading Post, where gifts and some necessities are sold, you will find good information on the area, wildlife and other interests. Located at the Pete Phillips' Lodge is a restaurant, along with main lodge's buildings, a swimming pool and tennis courts. “Little Ocmulgee State Park is an ideal destination for campers, who are looking to immerse themselves in the culture and scenery South Georgia has to offer, says GM Clint Smith. You’ll find seven picnic shelters, two group shelters, a pioneer camp and a 265-acre lake with fishing dock and boat ramp. It has everything anyone could want at a four-star resort. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Clint Smith tells the Buzz their campsites are popular for tent, trailer and RV campers, yet there is also a variety of lodging options including the main 60 guest-room lodge and lakeside cabins surrounded by calm woods.

Campsites are $35 per night and – during the Vidalia Onion Festival – reservations are a must. For those, visit GaStateParks.org. The park is currently offering a Winter Camping Discount: Get 50% Off Tent and RV Campsites through March 31, 2018 when you book online using promo code CAMP50.

Sweet Onion RV Park camping [Photo Credit: Dollie Goldman]
Paula Toole, executive director of Downtown Vidalia Association and Main Street manager, displays the Vidalia Onion Cook Book [Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival]
Vidalia onions are sold everywhere around the city during the Vidalia Onion Festival, held in 2018, April 26-29 in Vidalia, Ga. [Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival]

Some 21 miles from Vidalia, at Reidsville, Gordonia and Alatamaha State Park is off US. 280. Shade here is plentiful. An adjacent golf course is easily reached just past camping sites. There is a 12-acre lake with pedal boats and larger boats, available in warm weather, plus a boat ramp if you bring your own. Alligators populate the lake, so swimming is prohibited. Mini-golf, Geocaching, and a one-mile hiking trail provide adventure. Laundry, bathrooms and showers serve 29 tent, trailer and RV sites, some with sewage. Rates are from $19 to $23 per night. This park's name is spelled the “old” way. Elsewhere it is spelled with a dropped “A,” as at Georgia's Altamaha River. Farther away, Catfish Creek RV Campground is at 12532 U.S. Highway 301, Glennville, Ga., 30427. It features 18 sites, including tenting, big rig parking, pull-throughs with full-hookups on 30/50 amps, a pool, fishing, free wifi and cable. Their rate is $20 per night, and it is said to have a “nice, relaxing atmosphere.” Catfish Creek is also pet friendly and offers waterfront parking. Finally, Glennville hosts a one-day Sweet Onion Festival each second week in May in case you are just passing through.


Dollie Gull-Goldman

A veteran multimedia journalist who, now a senior, enthusiastically continues her RV travels, and she has worked as a photographer/filmmaker for early TV news, she spent some 20-years as a newspaper writer-editor/journalist. Dollie looks forward to even more RV on-the-road adventures.

Gordonia / Altamaha State Park

Make Sure To Stay At: 

Gordonia / Altamaha State Park, southeast Georgia's favorite park for picnicking, family reunions and golf. Picnic tables and shelters surround a small lake where visitors can rent pedal boats and fishing boats during warmer months. 5 rental cottages face the golf course, all with screened porches, fireplaces & TVs.

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