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EHRHARDT -- Organizers of the 42nd annual Ehrhardt Schuetzenfest (German for "Hunter's Festival") are lauding this year's event as "the best one ever." And much of the success is being attributed to the performance and presence of "American Idol" star Brandon Elder, a country music artist, and his band.

The festival began with Singspiration on Aug. 12 at Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church featuring a number of local choirs and individuals performing. Events the reminder of the week leading up to the festival's big day on Saturday, Aug. 18, included Bingo Night on Monday, Taste of Ehrhardt on Tuesday and a live auction on Thursday.

Proceeds from the Schuetzenfest are used annually for improvements in the town, including the purchase of Jaws of Life equipment for the rescue squad.

The 2018 Schuetzenfest Parade on Saturday morning featured 45 units.

“It was one of the longest and best parades the town has had in 42 years,” resident Hallman Sease said.

Tapped for the honor of opening the parade was young Maddy McCully, who fired the ceremonial first shot to kick off the Hunter's Festival. “Shooting the dove” is a hunting tradition that started with the very first Schuetzenfest Parade in 1976.

Serving as this year's grand marshal was S.C. House District 90 Rep. Justin Bamberg.

Also appearing in the parade was Schuetzenfest Chairman Flucie Sease and the winning float featuring the Andrew Jackson Academy Junior Varsity Girls Basketball Team shooting hoops as they rode along. The team, which is coached by Julie Sease, won the 2018 region championship.

Ehrhardt Mayor Billy Stanley rode in a 1924 Touring Car driven by Herbert Thomas.

“This was the best festival we’ve had, and the parade was the biggest,” Stanley said.

Members of Ehrhardt Town Council waving to the crowd from the parade were Bennie Hughes, Harry Hughes, Amy Lee and Bill Edinger.

Bamberg County Citizen of the Year Hal Kemmerlin of Bamberg also greeted parade viewers from the procession.

The most original unit, "Country Boys Can Survive," featured Shot Ryan driving his old pickup truck with a fishing boat hanging out the back of it and Raymond Ehrhardt sitting in it fishing and enjoying a cold beverage.

The Knee Bruisers motorcycle club was there, too, along with Brandon Elder and his band members, who rode in Randy Rentz’s swamp buggy.

The fun continued after the parade with the Ehrhardt Fire Department providing a Water Spray station for the children. Other activities included cornhole and basketball games. 

The highlight of the day was the performance by Brandon Elder and his band, which was a big hit with young and old alike.

“Lots and lots of hard work from the committee and locals made a difference this year and brought a bigger crowd than we have had in several years now," Stanley said, adding that interviews on an Augusta TV station about Elder performing at the Schuetzenfest helped attract more people.

Sease said she was grateful to everyone who helped make the festival a huge success.

“There are too many to name here, but we are grateful for it all," she said. "Brandon Elder was a very sweet, nice young man, and we all enjoyed the music and just appreciate that he came to our little town and entertained us so well.”

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