Suwannee Valley Times is distributed into the following cities and towns: Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Branford, Dowling Park, Falmouth, Lee, Wellborn, Jasper, White Springs, Fort White, High Springs and Alachua

Suwannee River Catfish Festival reels in crowds

The 2022 Suwannee River Catfish Festival, held last Saturday in Branford, was a welcomed event, especially since they were forced to cancel the last two years, due to the COVID pandemic. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

By Tami Stevenson

Branford, Fla., – Branford’s 2022 Suwannee River Catfish Festival drew catfish fans and music lovers from far and wide at Suwannee River Greenway, Saturday, April 9.

Known for its support of veterans, its great live music and mouthwatering catfish dinners, the 2022 festival did not disappoint! After having to cancel the event for the last two years, due to COVID-19, visitors flocked to the festival, in spite of high winds, to enjoy shopping at arts and crafts booths, kids games, live music, camaraderie and catfish dinners!


Festival board members normally award two scholarships from the proceeds of each event to local students that compete for the best essay relating to the history of the town of Branford and the Suwannee River. This year, however, they awarded three scholarships to Suwannee County students, due to a second place tie between Hannah Terry and Halleigh-Ray Harris. They each received $500. The first place scholarship went to Nathalia Veal, who received $1,000.


In addition to the scholarship awards, half the profits from each festival go to the Fisher House Foundation in Gainesville. This year the festival was able to donate $3,000 to help veterans and their families.


The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in their time of need and offers shelter and support during a medical crisis for the families of veterans at no cost to the veterans and their families.


This year Mike Cohen, from the Oak Grove Academy in Jasper, brought twelve volunteer youth to help organizers sell the much sought after catfish dinners.


Event coordinator Halford Harris said, “We couldn’t have done this without them (Oak Grove Academy).They are the most polite young people that I’ve met.

According to Harris, they began with 390 pounds of fish and sold approximately 1,000 dinners. They were sold out by 2 p.m.


Music fans made sure to bring their lawn chairs as crowds gathered around the live performance stage to listen to the Kentucky Sleepy Hollow Bluegrass Band, Social Club, County Road 400, Black River Harvesters, Blind Luck and more.


The Suwannee River Catfish Festival organizers wanted to thank everyone for attending and especially the volunteers that helped make it all possible.

Hooked on Heroes had a booth at the catfish festival, raising money to take veterans fishing. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

 

Chief Deputy Buddy Williams, second from right, with Suwannee County Deputy volunteers at the catfish festival. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

The Sleepy Hollow Kentucky Bluegrass Band performing at the catfish festival. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

 

Suwannee River Catfish Festival organizers were happy with the turnout after two years on hiatus. Front L-R: Cheri Sexton, Diane Walker-Saunders, Jim Hrapski. Back L-R: Halford Harris, Bill Childress, Alice Childress, Nathan Daughtry, Todd Thames, Lynn Martin and Bill Martin -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Mike Cohen, Front Row, left, from Oak Grove Academy in Jasper, brought some volunteer youth to help out serving the catfish dinners, with Montea Ellis, 2nd Row, right, and Melissa Cephus, 2nd Row, seccond from left. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

It was around 2 p.m. when the last of the catfish dinners were sold. -SVT Photo

Suwannee River Catfish Festival goers. -SVT Photo