The Lake Murray-Irmo Woman’s Club was looking for a way to raise money to build a new library. Their answer came in a 1973 WIS Radio broadcast. Gene McKay, a personality on the morning show, had his imagination piqued by a small, downtown Irmo hardware store named The Ancient Irmese General Store.”What were these Ancient Irmese like?”, pondered McKay, “Probably short people — a farming tribe who lived off okra!”
That October, a modest arts and crafts sale named the Okra Strut was held inside Seven Oaks Park. The Woman’s Club began the long standing tradition of frying and selling okra.
It wasn’t until the sixth Okra Strut that the event was moved outdoors to downtown Irmo. By December 1980, the slimy green veggie had given Irmo its first library on the corner of Harbison Boulevard and St. Andrews Road. (Information contributed in part by The New Irmo News)
Today the festival is managed by a board of committee members appointed by the Irmo Town Council and we are proud to say, “we are the nation’s original celebration of Okra.” The festival is now a two day event featuring a street dance, parade, arts and crafts, rides and amusements, petting zoo, and lots of festival food. Attendance for the celebration is estimated at 55,000 annually.Money raised by the festival is put back into the community through civic and school organizations, scholarships and improvements of public areas.