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Best festival weve ever had
Large crowds attend annual event
2 Moonshine Fest pic1
Shane Harbin, center, son Jacob and Greg Harris attend the Mountain Moonshine Festival each year to celebrate their familys moonshine lineage. Organizers say the weekend festival brought an estimated 100,000 visitors to Dawsonville. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

An estimated 100,000 visitors roared into town over the weekend to celebrate Dawsonville's high octane heritage of moonshine and fast cars.

Organizers are calling the 45th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival "the best festival we've ever had."

"This has just been great," said Calvin Byrd, president of K.A.R.E. for Kids, which organizes the event.

The weekend festival shifted into gear Friday morning with the annual "Moonshine Run" through the north Georgia mountains, and continued through Sunday on the square in downtown Dawsonville.

"Have you ever seen so many 40-model cars in one place? I know I haven't," said championship car owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore, who was in town to serve as the festival's grand marshal.

Moore led the parade of hot rods, beauty queens and a marching band to kick off the festival's official start.

The weekend festivities included more than 500 vendors from across the Southeast, live entertainment on three stages and one of the biggest displays of hot rods and racecars at any festival across the country.

The three-day festival pays tribute to the community's unique moonshine heritage and celebrates Dawsonville as the birthplace of NASCAR, which got its start with moonshiners racing south on Hwy. 9 to escape revenuers charged with shutting down the illegal trade.

Shane Hardin and Greg Harris, both of Dahlonega, attend the festival each year to celebrate their family's moonshine lineage.

"Back in the day moonshine was how they survived. It's what they knew," Hardin said.

This year, festival organizers also paid homage to the man who started it all when he invited the local craftsmen, vendors and farmers to bring their goods into town to sell to leaf-lookers passing through on the way to the mountains.

"His name was Fred Goswick, and he had a vision ... to do something to have them stop and visit with us," said Rhonda Goodwin, vice president of K.A.R.E. for Kids. "We're honored today to recognize Fred and his family for the vision he had."

A permanent plaque recognizing Goswick, who died in February, as the festival's founder will be cast in his honor on a bench that will sit outside Dawsonville's Historic Courthouse on the town square.

"Everyone will always know that 45 years ago this year he started the Moonshine Festival," Goodwin said.

Proceeds from the festival support K.A.R.E. for Kids' efforts to provide Christmas and other necessities to Dawson County children in need.

"We want to say thank you to everyone for supporting K.A.R.E. for Kids by attending the festival and thank all the volunteers that helped make this event possible," Byrd said. "We could never do this without them."

With the festival behind them, volunteers now have their site set on the children of Dawson County.

"Monday we started working on our Christmas program," Byrd said. "We're expecting about 700 to 750 kids in need this year that we're going to help. All the money that we raise goes back into the community to help Dawson County kids. That's what K.A.R.E. for Kids is all about."