Hampton Turns Into Hollywood

Small town hosts film festival where locals are the stars of the show

Poison Peach at the Palmetto

HAMPTON, S.C. (WTOC) - Hampton will turn into Hollywood when the town of about 2,800 hosts a film festival.

Poison Peach at the Palmetto will be the first event put on by the Hampton County Arts Council since the pandemic began. They decided to pick up the festival after it was canceled in Augusta.

“We offered to run the complete festival and not just the film that was made here,” Hampton County Arts Council member Heather Bruemmer said.

Hampton County native Doctor Thaddeus Jones will premier a teaser of his documentary during Poison Peach.

“I’m hoping to be able to get some more interest in the area to be able to finish it,” Jones said. It’s a big deal for me to represent for that area, but also to show the kids you don’t have to be in Hollywood to feel like you’ve made it. You can make it here.”

“Up Da Road” tells the story of rural South Carolina by following a bread man’s route to hear from small business owners. The audience will recognize friends, family and even themselves on the big screen. Everyone in the documentary is from Hampton, Colleton or Allendale counties. Jones’ experience working as a bread man years ago sparked the idea.

“A lot of times the people I was serving didn’t even look at themselves as entrepreneurs, so if they owned a mom and pop shop, they did it to survive. That kind of stuck with me, and the harshness of the job kind of stuck with me,” Jones said. “If rural America dies, what’s that going to leave for the cities? Because these young people that are innovative and looking to change the world, they generally come from small places.”

Some locals will make their acting debut at Poison Peach. Jay Tompkins and his children, Lizzi and Levi, all play shopkeepers in the movie "The Burning of Atlanta," which was also filmed in Hampton County.

“That’s something I’ve been passionate to get the chance to do for a while now,” Lizzi said.

Levi added, “I had a hard time not snickering at my lines.”

The town’s Palmetto Theatre will screen all of these films. The now-closed art deco theater was built in the 1920s and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“So much of it is still original,” Bruemmer said.

Members of the arts council hope the Palmetto makes an impression on the audience.

“We’re hoping to be able to raise funds to make it a working theater again,” Bruemmer said. “Which should really be a benefit to the community.”

And it’s a location that’s especially moving for Jay.

“I grew up in this small town, and the Palmetto Theater’s been closed for some time. I never thought I’d get to see a movie there with my children, so to get to see a movie there with them that we’re in, it’s just amazing.”

Of course, organizers are taking a lot of precautions to keep it safe for everyone, including limiting ticket sales to about 30% of the theater’s capacity, alternating rows, and asking families to sit at least two seats from each other. Everyone in the theater will also be asked to wear a face mask. The festival is scheduled from June 26 through 28. Tickets start at $8. Snow cones, a crab crackin’ dinner and other concessions will also be offered.

The arts council will also use the festival as an opportunity to debut a new exhibit called “The Land and Us” from Lowcountry artist Amiri Farris.

“We’re going to be welcoming some folks to our community that maybe hadn’t been there before,“ Bruemmer said. “It’s a series of paintings done with indigo, which is naturally grown in this area.”

You can check that out in the Stanley Arts Building nextdoor.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.