St. Marys residents hail the Vidalia onion

ST. MARYS – Since 2005, the first shipments of an unusual onion St. Marys has been celebrated with a festival.

Since then, the Sweet Breath of Spring Vidalia Onion Festival has been going strong and is now in its ninth year in downtown St. Marys.

Randy Nutter, with the United Methodist Men of St. Marys United Methodist Church and coordinator of the festival, said this year’s event had about the same number of vendors and visitors to celebrate the arrival of spring in the area.

“We’ve had about 400-500 here so far and many of the vendors are back for another year,” he said. “It’s a big fundraiser for many of them.”

Nutter said the weather for Saturday’s festival could not have been better.

“This is a beautiful day, just beautiful and it brought out a lot of people,” he said. “The kids are having fun with the inflatables; we couldn’t ask for a better day.”

Nutter said the festival has it roots with a community tradition that began in the 1980s. The shipment of the sweet Vidalia onion began with Robert “Coonie” Pryor and Bill Hammet. Pryor began the shipment after tasting Vidalia onions during a visit to his brother-in-law in Georgia, the home of the onion. At that time, Vidalia onions were little-known outside of Georgia.

As in years past, Saturday’s festival included a farmers’ market, craft vendors, the Vidalia Onion Eating contest and the annual “Best Pie in Pleasants County” contest and pie auction.

Those purchasing 10-pound bags of Vidalia onions were helping to support the Onion Gang’s Major Medical Fund. Other groups were raising funds for Relay for Life and other community programs.