I must admit, at first I was afraid. I was petrified. I’d heard a few weeks ago that Savannah’s Jewish Food Festival, affectionately referred to as “Shalom Y’all” was moving out of Forsyth Park. The person that told me immediately had my undivided attention. I thought there must be some mistake. Shalom Y’all and Forsyth Park go together like Knishes and Mustard! Hot Dogs and Coney Island! Savannah and bad Chinese food! That event can only get bigger, not smaller. My initial reaction was wonder if the event was in trouble. What on earth could trigger such a dramatic switch. Well, once I got to the bottom of it all, I am here to report that my reaction was overreaction and this year’s Shalom Y’all might wind up being the best event they’ve had in years, back in its original location of Monterey Square.
“There were frankly a lot of reasons for the change.” says Jennifer Rich, Executive Director of Congregation Mickve Israel. “We’ve run in to a few logistical issues over the years, so we decided to take a step back and re-asses everything we were doing with the festival.”
The biggest challenge Jennifer tells me they had was getting food out to the park in a timely fashion. All of the food that is prepared for the Sunday afternoon event comes out of the kitchen on to Wayne Street near Drayton. At that point, it was dependent on the availability of a golf cart to get it down the road, through the massive crowds to Forsyth Park. Repeat that situation a few dozen times and you could see where that could get old in a hurry.
The other issue they ran into was getting all of their support equipment, stages and the like, out to the park. I have no trouble believing that is a massive undertaking. I said once upon a time, I’d rather move 5,000 miles than 5 blocks. Very challenging, and it was for festival organizers as well, ever single year.
So how do they make it better? For starters, the 29th Shalom Y’all (on October 29th) will be a complete Monterey Square takeover. The North/South streets around the square will be closed off. As will Wayne Street in the middle of the square from Drayton up to Whitaker Street. Gordon and Taylor streets will remain open to vehicular traffic, although any driver trying to get through there that day may want to re-think that. Of course, I’m referring to locals. I’m certain unsuspecting tourists will get snagged in that mess.
Food booths will line Wayne Street and Bull Street in front of the Mercer House across the square. Half a block north of the Mercer House, there will be a kids zone so they can enjoy as well. Ticket booths (required to purchase food) will be set up at opposite corners of the square. One at Gordon and Bull Streets, the other diagonally across at Taylor and Bull. It seems like a win win situation for everyone. “Over in the park, if the kids wanted to play, parents were taking them to the playground which pulled them away from our event.” Jennifer says. “This way they can enjoy themselves and not leave.”
The part of this event that is most exciting? The seating area. All of the walkways in the square will have tables set up. That will be the primary seating for the event, though there will be other tables, including high-tops around the square in a few different spots.
Jennifer says Potato Knishes will be offered for the first time at Shalom Y’all. There will also be Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Always popular at Shalom Y’all are potato latkes, blintzes, challah, noodle kugel and much more.
So, crisis averted. No need to panic. Not only is Shalom Y’all in very good hands as always, but it’s clear that moves are being made to allow it to grow in an organized fashion that will make the experience a little more friendly for everyone. To be fair, this will be a first time moving such a large and popular event to a new space, so there very well could be some logistical issues that pop up unexpectedly, so just be patient, and allow yourself plenty of time to Eat It and Like It.
In the meantime, if you cannot wait until the 29th to enjoy the best that Savannah’s Jewish community has to offer, The Grey’s October Sunday Supper is offering a menu celebrating Sukkot. Chef Mashama Bailey has put together an impressive menu served family style. That event is Sunday night October 15th. For more on that, click here.
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