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Honoring the Brinsons
Annual Parade highlight of 60th Livestock Festival
W Soda Shop float
The Soda Shop Gallery float is shown in Saturday's Livestock Festival Parade. - photo by CRYSTAL WALKER/Staff

       SYLVANIA - If diamonds were the theme for the 60th anniversary of Screven County's Livestock Festival, then they couldn't have glistened more in Saturday's record high temperatures, at what has become the longest continuously running livestock festival in Georgia.
      Edward and Thetis Brinson, selected as 2011 Grand Marshalls for the parade, have been farming as long as Screven County has celebrated livestock.
      Long-time Screven County residents and supporters of the Livestock Festival, the Brinsons shared their duty as Grand Marshalls with Georgia's Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in Saturday's parade.
      "The parade had the largest number of units I have seen in a long time," said Mayor Margaret Evans.
      And the evening concert featuring The Headliners from Hilton Head Island, S.C., was very well attended, she said.
      The Brinsons, turning 89 and 87 later this year, are so deeply rooted in Screven County, they said they could hardly imagine living or farming anywhere else.
      After attending Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for two years and beginning his study of surveying at UGA, life's circumstances brought Edward Brinson home, once again to farm.
      Before marrying, Thetis worked 10 years for the Savannah Morning News as book keeper in the circulation department, but without missing a beat, she settled into her role as a farmer's wife.
       "He'd be on one tractor doing one thing," she said, "and I'd be on another tractor doing something else."
      With his wife by his side from the time they married in 1952, Brinson has been farming ever since.
      Over the years, Brinson said he has had just about every kind of crop and livestock there is, except dairy cows.
      "As a farmer, you have to work seven days a week," he said, "especially when you have livestock to tend to."
      In addition to farming, Brinson worked for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service for 47 years. He also worked for many years as an instructor for Veterans Farm Training, an initiative that helped veteran soldiers transition from their work in the service into becoming better farmers.
      "I loved my job," said Brinson.
      Through his involvement with the local Farm Bureau, Brinson soon became secretary of the Screven County chapter.
      The couple's contribution to Screven County's livestock festival began almost as soon as the festival itself did.
      Mrs. Brinson recalled missing it the first year but being involved in one way or another for the following 59 years of celebrating livestock, including this year as Grand Marshalls of the parade.
      "It was a great honor to be asked," she said.
      "When they first called us, Edward said he'd have to think about it," she said, because he's not much for being in the spotlight.
      But realizing what a great honor it was, the two agreed to lead the parade.
      The parade has evolved a lot since then, they said, yet the celebration of an industry that means so much to a town, in many ways remains the same.
      While today's parade no longer features horses or ends with a rodeo, the spirit of western-country is still alive throughout the festivities.
      Although Brinson is retired from his public jobs, he will probably be a farmer till he dies, he said. The two still have nine cows and a bull.
      "He's probably given away more of his crops over the years than he's kept," said Mrs. Brinson. "But it's not what you keep," the couple agreed, "it's what you give away."
      "In addition to enjoying the beautiful weather, sampling some of the best Georgia grown food in the state and meeting a number of delightful people," said Commissioner Black, of his experience Saturday, "the highlight of my entire weekend was extra special."
      "Edward Brinson presented me with spread sheets documenting rain totals in Screven County from 1966 to the present," he said, referring to one of Brinson's unique hobbies that he still enjoys to this day.
      "That's something that I am going to treasure and value for the rest of my life," said Black.

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