By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
49th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival honors racing legends
Pirkle honored with Humanitarian Award
A-Moonshine Festival pic1
Spectators at the 49th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival watched as the motorcar parade made its way through downtown and around the historic Dawsonville courthouse early Saturday. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

A cool, breezy morning awakened vendors and festival-goers alike on Saturday morning for the 49th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.

More than 130 vendors and a few thousand spectators visited downtown Dawsonville over the weekend to participate in car shows, watch a motor parade, eat lots of BBQ and apple dumplings and bathe in the history of the mountain city's bootlegging past.

A parade preceded all events Saturday morning, when vintage automobiles and race cars roared down Hwy. 9 and circled triumphantly around the square.

Leading the parade was Carolyn Mincey, riding in honor of her late husband Charlie, who was chosen in March to be the grand marshal for the annual festival.

Later at the opening ceremony, Carolyn and her family spoke about Mincey, a former moonshine runner and member of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame 2004 class.

Mincey was 84 when he died, and started hauling whiskey out of Dawsonville when he was 14.
Mincey passed away April 7 at the age of 84, but his influence in the town will not be soon forgotten.

"He raced with the pioneers of racing, like Gober Sosebee," said ceremony officiator Gordon Pirkle. "He never did lose a moonshine run. We're glad to have him represent the festival."

Five new National Moonshine Hall of Fame inductees also rode in the Moonshine Festival parade and were presented at the opening ceremony. The Moonshine Hall of Fame has honored four classes since 2013, with five members in each class.

The late Jewel "Churnhead" Crane, late Billy Crane and the late W.A. Hardin, all of Dawsonville, George Winston Sudderth of Sugar Hill and Jimmy Fallin of Boonville, N.C. were the 2016 recipients of the recognition.

Fallin is a career moonshine maker and has been featured in several nationally broadcast television shows and documentaries, such as the recent "Sports on Fire" series on HBO Canada.

"I never stole a pack of gum, I don't know what drugs is, but I've made enough damn liquor to float Dawsonville," Fallin said. "I ain't ever gonna quit."

Also presented at the opening ceremony were five new inductees to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. The five are Ricky Williams of Fayetteville, Stan Massey of Mableton, Dick Brannan of Dawsonville, Sam Sommers of Sylvania and the late Jimmy Thomas of Columbus.

The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame Class of 2016 will be inducted during another ceremony at the Hall of Fame in Dawsonville on Nov. 12.

A special award was given to Gordon Pirkle, a Dawsonville historian who founded both the National Moonshine Hall of Fame and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

Pirkle was presented with the 49th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival Humanitarian Award for his service to Dawsonville over the years and his tireless efforts to support the annual festival.

Pirkle's grandson Michael Garrett, currently a senior at the University of Georgia, said that he has learned more from listening to Pirkle's stories than he has in 18 years of school.

"He's Mr. Dawsonville, and we love him dearly," Garrett said.

The annual festival is the biggest annual fundraiser for K.A.R.E for Kids, a non-profit charity in Dawson County that provides less fortunate children with necessities throughout the year and gifts at Christmas.

The organization is in charge of everything, from registering vendors and creating the downtown map to directing traffic and parking visitors.

This year, the traffic plan for the festival varied from its usual old courthouse-centered layout, and the square remained open for traffic throughout the weekend.

K.A.R.E. Director David McKee said that from a safety and traffic standpoint, the new plan worked out great.

"In my opinion traffic flow was much better than before," McKee said. "We also got a lot of good feedback about the parade, and the new route worked out fine."

McKee declared the festival a success from the organization's standpoint.

"There were no major medical, fire or security issues," he said. "Everyone was safe and had a good time.

As to how much revenue the festival brought for the organization, McKee said that he has no exact numbers yet.

"It will be a few weeks before we get any solid numbers," McKee said. "But it appears to be in line with what we've done in previous years."

McKee said that K.A.R.E won't waste any time now that the festival is over and will soon start taking down names of children that the organization will help this Christmas.

"We're starting sign up for Christmas on Saturday, Oct. 29," he said. "We're looking forward to the sign up and shopping process."