HISTORY OF THE OKRA STRUT

Gene McKay

Back in the early 1970's, the Lake Murray-Irmo Woman's Club decided to raise funds to build a library for the town of Irmo. Their long history of charitable contributions to the community is well known, but the large amount of funds required for a new library made it a daunting task.

One day, some of the Woman's Club members heard a broadcast from local commentator & WIS radio personality Gene McKay, who mentioned that he had seen a downtown Irmo hardware & general store business named the 'Ancient Irmese General Store', on the corner of Fork Avenue & Woodrow Street, where Little Caesers Pizza is today on St. Andrews Road.

”What were these Ancient Irmese like?”, McKay wondered.  “Probably short people — a farming tribe who lived off okra!”

 

Gene McKay Quote

 

McKay's on-air musings gave the Woman's Club the solution they needed for their fundraising program. Later that same year in October, the Woman's Club held a small arts and crafts fair at Seven Oaks Park that they dubbed, "The Okra Strut". The Club began the long-standing tradition of frying up okra for the fundraiser to benefit the library fund.

Seven years and thousands of servings of fried okra later, the Woman's Club had finally raised enough money to fund Irmo's first library, located on St. Andrews Road.

More recently, the Okra Strut Festival is hosted by the Town of Irmo, SC, and is managed by the Town Council and the Okra Strut Commission.

The festival is a two day event featuring a Friday evening street dance with a live band, a Saturday morning parade (the largest in the entire state of South Carolina!), plus arts and crafts, rides and amusements, a petting zoo, live bands and entertainment on Saturday as well as lots of festival food.

Attendance for the celebration averages around 25,000 attendees annually but has seen as many as 60,000 visitors to the previous festivals. Money raised by the festival is put back into the community through charitable contributions to local civic and school organizations, for scholarships and improvements of public areas.

 

Ancient Irmese Hardware Store