Grist State Park holds fall fun day for community

Published 4:10 pm Saturday, October 22, 2016

Jackson Ferrell concentrates on tossing a bean bag at Paul M. Grist State Park’s Fall Festival Saturday.

Jackson Ferrell concentrates on tossing a bean bag at Paul M. Grist State Park’s Fall Festival Saturday.

By Blake Deshazo | The Selma Times-Journal

When Friends of Paul Grist M. Grist, a group volunteers that help take care of the park, decided to put on a fall festival, they never expected it to turn out to be as big as it did.

Cars lined the road going down to the lake and hundreds of people filled the park, as the festival exceeded its expectations.

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“We were thinking … oh, we’ll probably have 200 or 300 people,” said Anita Ellison, one of the festival organizers. “But I started watching the little clicker on Facebook, and this past week it had gone up so high and then people in the community had started talking about it.”

Ellison said they exceeded their expectations an hour and a half after the gates opened Saturday morning at 9 a.m., and the people just kept coming.

“It’s awesome and amazing,” Ellison said. “That’s what we always wanted.”

Ellison said it was inspiring to see so many people at the park a year after the state decided to close the gates.

“I was here the day it closed, and I was here the day it reopened, and it was a sad time and then an exciting time for us,” Ellison said. “Just to see all these people out enjoying it and the children getting out, that’s one of the things we’re striving for.”

Dallas County took over the park last December, and Ellison said Friends of Paul Grist was determined to make people aware of the park.

“There are so many people out there that didn’t even know this park existed, and so this kind of brought them out, and they’re all saying, ‘Oh, gosh, it’s great,’ Ellison said.

The festival had more than 40 vendors and a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy.

“It was a lot of planning. We started actually about two months ago,” Ellison said. “We started out putting it on Facebook … and it’s like people just jumped on it.”

Angie Perry, who has fond memories of coming to the park as a child, brought her granddaughter from Tuscaloosa to the festival.

“When I was young we used to come out here all the time, so I’m glad that it’s been taken over by the county so we can enjoy it again,” Perry said.

“This is so fun. It has changed, but it is so nice.”

Ellison said the money raised from the festival will go back to the county and they hope to put the money towards camping seminars for children.