Celebrating the hummingbird is to celebrate life. The tiny, floating creatures surge when the weather warms, the flowers bloom and the landscape wakes up from winter. Woodford, a small town in South Carolina, welcomes back the ruby-throated hummingbird, the only species found east of the Mississippi River, from its non-stop seasonal migration flight over the Gulf of Mexico. The grueling trek makes them hungry, so they come out in abundance, eating twice their weight in food -- usually nectar but also insects -- every day to refuel. That's when you'll catch a glimpse of the hovering critters, celebrated at the Hummingbird Festival in Woodford.
The Hummingbird Festival
Woodford's Hummingbird Festival, started in 2009 to help promote the western end of Orangeburg County. Wanting to be the center of the state's attention, organizers intentionally pick out a weekend in early spring to avoid conflicts with other festivals. Usually held on a weekend near the official start of spring, the festival draws thousands of people to the tiny town 20 miles south of Columbia. The event kicks off on Friday night and continues through the day on Saturday. Unfortunately, a sluggish economy forced organizers to skip the 2013 festival.
Small Town, Small Bird
State route 321 cuts right through the heart of Woodford on its way to the state capital, but many locals don't know where Woodford is, despite their commute. The 2010 census stated a population of 183, but the festival puts the quaint village on the map. Woodford furthers the publicity with a hummingbird mascot named Hummford, a huge hit with the kids, all to celebrate the amazing ruby-throated hummingbird. The short-legged creatures are incapable of walking or hopping, but they can beat their wings 53 times per second in flight up to 30 miles per hour. Look quickly for the male's bright red throat as it flies upside-down, backwards and hovers.
Local vendors seize the opportunity for exposure throughout the festival with vendor tents and firehouse silent auction items. The festival offers kids a visit with Hummford, a chance to walk around the grounds inside a giant inflatable ball and train rides, while the whole family is treated to music, dancing and local food. Saturday morning, contestants under the age of 16 can register for the Glass Slipper Natural Beauty Pageant and the competition is held that afternoon. Take the time to wander the vendors, enjoy the swings in front of town hall and meet the locals while enjoying live music.
Get the Most out of Your Visit
You're likely to enjoy a cool, crisp day at the festival in Woodford with an average daytime high of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but it could dip down to the low 50s by nightfall. It's a good idea to check the weather before heading down state route 321. Expected crowds can reach 7,000, so prepare for small-town traffic. Arriving early and leaving before the end of the festival can get you dodging the mob, and bring the camera because the kids are going to love Hummford.