This past weekend, the 55th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival drew hundreds of visitors to the Dawsonville City Hall Complex to enjoy the car show, live music, parade, moonshine run and dozens of vendors spread out throughout Main Street Park.
The festival, which was put on by local nonprofit K.A.R.E. for Kids and presented by Bank’s Septic Tank Service, kicked off on Friday morning with the annual Moonshine Run, followed by the parade and opening ceremonies on Saturday morning. Vendors selling everything from food to clothing to handmade crafts filled the park and sold their wares all day on both Saturday and Sunday.
As they do each year, proceeds from the festival went to support K.A.R.E. for Kids’ annual Christmas program, which aims at providing Christmas presents to local children whose families need a little extra help at Christmastime.
This year’s Grand Marshal was Donnie Allison, a NASCAR legend who is known for his role as part of the famous “Alabama Gang'', a group of NASCAR drivers out of Hueytown, Alabama. As the Grand Marshal, Allison led the parade on Saturday morning and spoke during the opening ceremonies for the festival.
“I wanna thank everybody for coming out and supporting such a great cause,” Allison said. “It’s truly a great experience; I’m looking at all these cars up and down both sides of the parking area here and what a tremendous effort everybody puts into it.”
Also during the opening ceremonies, representatives from K.A.R.E. for Kids presented their annual Humanitarian Award to Bobby Benfield, a longtime volunteer with the festival. The award was first created to honor Gordon Pirkle seven years ago, and each year since then a new recipient has been recognized with the award for their dedication and love for the festival and for K.A.R.E. for Kids.
“Every recipient has been a pillar of strength in keeping this event going; their commitment to work in support of something that is so near and dear to my daddy is truly amazing,” Pirkle’s daughter and K.A.R.E. for Kids Board Member Hayley Garrett said. “This year’s recipient falls right into that description — he arrives early to help park cars and anything else that’s asked of him. He promotes the festival year-round in his community, and he always has a smile on his face. He loves the festival and K.A.R.E. for Kids, and we love him.”
The three newest inductees to the National Moonshiners Hall of Fame were also announced during the opening ceremonies, and representatives for each of the honorees came forward to accept plaques for the achievement.
This year’s inductees were Duane “Skeeter” Fields, Ted Bauguess and Tommy “Catfish” Davis.
Fields made liquor in Dawson, Lumpkin and surrounding counties and is known as an expert in making the liquor most efficiently using less sugar.
Bauguess was from Traphill, North Carolina, followed in his father’s footsteps in the moonshine business, and was arrested several times before being killed in a car crash at only 40 years old.
Davis began making moonshine as a way to survive after losing both of his parents at a young age and was arrested three times before he was given probation to pursue a career in cutting timber, but he always found time to make a little liquor up until his death in 2013.
The opening ceremonies began and ended with performances by Shyla, Mila and Lilly Sheffield, who sang the national anthem at the beginning and “Country Roads” at the end. Faith Thomas gave the invocation following the performance of the national anthem.
K.A.R.E. for Kids President Rhonda Evans thanked all of the many volunteers who helped to make this year’s festival happen, applauding each of them for their hard work ahead of and during the festival.
"Thank you everybody, from the smallest thing you do to the greatest, it takes us all and it’s a joy just to see it come together,” Evans said.
For more information about K.A.R.E. for Kids, the annual festival, and how to help support the nonprofit’s Christmas program, go to http://www.kareforkids.org/.