Wheels in motion for cyclists ready for the next Tour de Plantersville
Close your eyes and imagine the cool breeze on your face as you peddle your bike with friends and family along country roads lined with beautiful live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
That’s the experience that hundreds of bicyclists will soon discover on the quiet streets of Plantersville in Georgetown County, also known as South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®, as they celebrate health, happiness, harmony, and history during the third annual Tour de Plantersville & Cultural Festival set for Saturday, Oct. 30.
Participants in this year’s Tour de Plantersville will find a choice of three rides that start at Plantersville Elementary School, located at 1668 Exodus Drive: a 12-mile ride, a 25-mile ride and the Metric Century ride of 100 kilometers (62-mile ride). Route maps can be found by clicking on each ride. Organizers stress that the rides are not races and are open to anyone who wants to enjoy time on their bike.
The rides have staggered starts beginning at 7:30 a.m. for the 62-mile ride. People who register will be notified by email of their start time and other details prior to the event.
Cost to join the bike rides is $20 for youths (ages 12-18) for the 12- and 25-mile events. For adults, the 12-mile ride is $45 and the 25-or 62-mile ride is $55.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have limited registration to online only — there will be no day-of event registration.
The Cultural Festival is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the grounds of Plantersville Elementary School. ReggaeInfinity will perform authentic Roots Reggae from noon to 2 p.m. The festival will also feature entertainment, food, and vendors. A children’s area will include inflatables, games and more, and there will be a Vendor Village coordinated by the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce.
Organizers of the Tour de Plantersville & Cultural Festival, who are part of a nonprofit group called The Village Group, say the events are a great opportunity for people to see parts of the Hammock Coast they might not have seen before. They recommend stopping by the Plantersville Cultural Center, located at 7 Plantersville Road, just off U.S. Highway 701, just outside the city limits of Georgetown.
“There is so much to Georgetown County, especially the western portion,” said Ray Funnye, director of The Village Group. “Tour de Plantersville & Cultural Festival is an opportunity for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to get outside and truly marvel at nature and totally relax.”
Funnye hopes that participants will return — and convince others to do the same — to explore the area and the Plantersville Cultural Center where they can develop a deep appreciation for the beauty and history of the area.
Nanci Conley, chief operating officer for The Village Group, noted that the Cultural Festival will include a Caribbean Creole Food Truck from Charleston and an expanded children’s area with a carnival atmosphere.
“This event offers participants a relaxing, beautiful, energizing day because you truly become one with nature in a safe and family-friendly atmosphere,” Conley said. “Once you experience Tour de Plantersville & Cultural Festival, you will return year after year!”
Plantersville offers the only Scenic Byway in Georgetown County. Along the byway and throughout the ride, there are 10 plantations dating back to the Colonial era that are part of the region’s rich rice-farming history. These sites contain several pre-Civil War landmarks – mansions, slave houses, churches, rice Chimneys and other ruins. There are designated stops along the ride to encourage bike-riders to explore the grounds that are open to the public. (Some of the areas are private and should not be accessed by the public).
The area is at the heart of the Pee Dee River Rice Planters Historic District, which includes many of the largest former rice plantations in the nation. Landowners included Gov. F.W. Allston and Dr. Edward Thomas Heriot, whose hundreds of enslaved laborers produced the internationally coveted Carolina Gold Rice.
While many planters split their time between Plantersville and Charleston, the African-American enslaved population would travel between the plantations and towns along the Black and Pee Dee rivers. This historic network made Georgetown a major political center during Reconstruction, electing several black congressmen to state and United States legislatures, including Plantersville-born John Bolts.
Plantersville has one of the few intact cultural landscapes left in the country. As African-Americans purchased large swaths of land after Emancipation, many communities formed into self-sufficient and distinct villages.
These villages still exist today, and some are named after founders or important community leaders: Jackson Village, Annie Village, Ford Town, Bromell Town. Others preserved the names of the plantation communities whose history trace back to the 1800s: Nightingale, Dirleton, Arundel. That is why the founding organization of the Tour de Plantersville & Cultural Festival event is called The Village Group.
In addition, the area is rich in natural beauty. The Dirleton Plantation-Samworth Wildlife Management Area is located along this stretch of byway and offers a chance to see some of the region’s wildlife in its natural habitat.
Geales Sands, executive director of the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, has participated in the Tour de Plantersville & Cultural Festival since its inception. She said she would recommend it to anyone who enjoys nature and history.
“I love to ride my bike, and it is always fun to ride in a place that has such beautiful views,” Sands said. “Learning more about our diverse county is always a good thing, and participating in this event is one of the most fun ways to experience rural Georgetown County.”
She added that the event is a way to broaden horizons and learn more about the Plantersville community.
“People should come because it’s a whole lot of fun,” she said. “There’s so much more to Georgetown County than just the beach. Get out there and experience it for yourself.”
Tickets to Tour de Plantersville are non-refundable.
South Carolina’s Hammock Coast® is the Presenting Sponsor for the 2021 Tour de Plantersville.
For more information about the event, including registration information and details on businesses where bikes can be rented, visit tourdeplantersville.com. For more information about The Village Group, visit thevillagegroup.org, or call 843-591-3113.
By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®
For more information about the Hammock Coast, visit www.HammockCoastSC.com.
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