ABBEVILLE — Nothing brings out a crowd like fun and games.

That’s exactly why people converged on Court Square to attend the Abbeville Spring Festival. The event kicked off Thursday evening and nearly 1,000 people the Square to enjoy food, rides, games and camaraderie.

People congregated before 5 p.m. By 5:15, a long line of people filed up to a booth to buy tickets for the rides. As the evening wore on, the line often got longer.

Of course, some of the games were unexpected. The water gun game featured the usual stuffed toys as prizes. Two boys perked up when the barker announced “Play and you can get a $100 bill!” You could see them deflate when he pointed to a small pillow emblazoned with a fake bill.

“I thought it was a real dollar bill,” one boy said.

Another junior marksman picked out a stuffed unicorn. “It’s for my girlfriend,” he explained.

Most rides elicited squeals and laughter. One ride, appropriately named “The Tornado,” elicited screams and one girl shouting “I wanna get off!” One boy shouted something that sounded suspiciously like “Oh (expletive)!”

While the rides thrilled the kids, some adults were less than enthused. One woman fiddled with a cellphone camera while a girl and her father climbed up the stairs for the giant slide. She grumbled, “They’re gonna be down by the time I figure this out.” As it turned out, she had plenty of time, especially as the girl shouted “Let’s do it again!”

Some of the loudest applause was for a squad of 25 dancers from the Phoenix Academy of Arts of Greenwood, an afterschool program that provides lessons in dance, drums, piano, voice work and acting. Technicolor shirts worn by students and supporters made them easy to pick out.

“Our main goal is to get the crowd involved, and that’s what we did,” said Tavoris Miller, an Academy spokesman. Dancers encouraged adults and kids 12 and younger to step up and strut their stuff. They got a good crowd out of their seats.

“We just want everybody to come out and have a good time,” he said.

The festival is is something the kids look forward to every year and. of course, the kids love the rides, Miller said.

Dancers and other students will return to Abbeville on June 19 at the Abbeville Opera House to perform “The Wiz,” Miller said. “It’s a challenge for us, but we’re ready for it.”

Students with the Academy also will perform at the kids’ fest during the Festival of Flowers on June 12 in Greenwood, he said.

The festival is the first large event in Abbeville that features relaxed COVID-19 rules. Hand sanitizing stations were distributed through the Square and most people wore masks, but social distancing wasn’t prevalent, although posters still advised it.

Contact staff writer Robert Jordan at 864-943-5650.