Anita Singleton-Prather, a Gullah Geechee storyteller, entertains the audience during the 38th Annual Heritage Days Celebration parade on Saturday, Nov. 12 on St. Helena Island. Photo courtesy of Elijah Abram.

Penn Center’s Heritage Days Celebration weathers Nicole


By Delayna Earley

Not even a tropical storm could stop the Heritage Days Celebration at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island this past weekend.

The 38th annual Heritage Days Celebration was scheduled to run from Thursday, Nov. 10 through Saturday, Nov. 12 and celebrated the Penn Center and Gullah Geechee culture.

The festival attracted around 35, 000 patrons according to Marie Gibbs, Heritage Days Committee Co-Chairperson and Director of the York W. Bailey Museum.

“It’s like a homecoming, like coming home for most people.” Gibbs said. “It’s been two years since the last one. Even with the rain, people were out there.”

Tropical Storm Nicole did cause some events to be canceled on Thursday, including the Gullah Roots Village, opening ceremonies, and youth theatrical performance, but the patrons were still able to enjoy the Lowcountry Supper followed by a showing of artwork from the Heritage Days’ featured artist, Sonja Griffin Evans.

“We pulled out all of our prayer warriors to keep the rain away,” Gibbs said.

The celebration ended with the Heritage Days Parade and Soul Slide Dance Party on Saturday.

“This one truly came together, despite the rain and the weather,” Gibbs said. “It happened in a big way, in big part to all of our committee members and volunteers. They are who made this possible.”

Delayna Earley lives in Beaufort with her husband, two children and Jack Russell. She spent six years as a videographer and photographer for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette before leaving the Lowcountry in 2018. After freelancing in Myrtle Beach and Virginia, she joined The Island News when she moved back to Beaufort in 2022. She can be reached at delayna.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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