IRMO, SC (WIS) - It began in 1973 when members of the Lake Murray-Irmo Woman's Club were looking for a way to raise funding for a new library.
The idea they cooked up: A community festival to celebrate and consume okra. What became known as the Okra Strut turned out to be so successful, the club agreed in 1980 to let town leaders take control. That agreement included provisions gr anting the Woman's Club free exhibit space and an exclusive right to sell fried okra.
But now club members say the town's leadership is trying to change an arrangement that's been in place for 35 years.
President Peggy Grillot says a newly-reconfigured Irmo Town Council led by Mayor Hardy King has voted to charge the organization for booth space and electricity along with a participation fee. She says the charges add up to $650 and could hurt the club's program to provide student scholarships.
Grillot says last year, the town made a profit of more than $20,000 from the festival.
On Tuesday, the council passed a first reading of an ordinance setting the fees. Two more readings are needed for passage.
Grillot says it's not clear what prompted the proposal. She says the ordinance does allow the Woman's Club to continue as the event's only seller of fried okra.
Otherwise, she says, "we're pretty upset about it."
So far, Mayor King has been unavailable for comment.