GEORGETOWN — The Festival of the Horse is a homecoming for many who crowd the streets of downtown Georgetown each year.
Local business owner Gretchen Soards describes a variety of foods sold at the annual event — Greek cuisine, Philly cheese steaks, barbecue — and tons of entertainment for children and adults.
But Soards, who runs Heirlooms & Gretchen's on West Main Street, says the atmosphere is her favorite part.
John Fitch, who helped create an event in 1980 that later became the Festival of the Horse, said he's not surprised by the event's success as friends and relatives return year after year to catch up. And tourism commission director John Simpson recalls his daughter reconnecting with high school friends during the festival.
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"It's a great community event," Simpson said. "You see everybody from the community here."
The free festival runs through Sunday. Traditional favorites include Elvis impersonator Bill Kelly on Friday night, and new faces include the Motown tribute band Touch on Saturday night.
Touch, composed of five men from Dayton, Ohio, will help Georgetown celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown, Simpson said. He said he expects that the band will be popular, especially among baby boomers.
"They come out in multicolored suits, and they do the dance routines like the Four Tops and Temptations," Simpson said. "And they sing all those hits from the '60s that I grew up with."
Other entertainment will include dance groups; Driving Rain, a Georgetown bluegrass band; and Jade Harrell, an artist from Jacksonville, Fla., whose music is described on her MySpace page as indie/R&B/pop.
"We're really trying to mix up the entertainment so we've got a wide variety that people will enjoy," Simpson said.
There will be crafts, game booths, vendors and a "Funtime Carnival" each day.
Then there's the main attraction. No, not the funnel cakes, although there will be plenty. But this festival is about the horses.
Jockey Jean Cruguet, who rode Seattle Slew to the Triple Crown in 1977, will be the grand marshal for the Grand Parade on Saturday. The Colt & Filly Children's Parade is Friday. There also will be horse games and a horse show.
About 30,000 people are expected to attend this year's event. Festival president Todd MacMillan promised something different and economical.
"It's something to do that is way more cost-effective than taking a trip somewhere," he said. "But it's fun."