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Event fuels charity
After 43 years, festival shines
2 Moonshine Festival pic3
From left, Bill Elliott, Gordon Pirkle, David Pearson and David Sosebee talk prior to Saturday morning's opening ceremonies. - photo by Frank Reddy Dawson Community News

John Evans is what you might call a Mountain Moonshine Festival fanatic.


He and his family of four have attended the annual gathering for 15 years now.


"I can't imagine a year without the Moonshine Festival," he said. "It just wouldn't be right."


Evans and thousands of others arrived over the weekend in Dawsonville for what organizers called one of the most successful Mountain Moonshine Festivals to date.


A combination of comfortable temperatures and clear, blue skies played a big part said Calvin Byrd, president of the nonprofit organization that holds the event.


“It’s beautiful weather and everything’s great,” said Byrd as he directed volunteers in historic downtown Saturday morning. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day.”


A final tally of those who attended the 43rd annual event had not yet been determined, but fellow organizer Gordon Pirkle said it was on track to be a record breaker.


“Just look at this out here. I can’t remember there ever being so many people,” said Pirkle as he stood outside his downtown restaurant.


Local Dell Conner echoed the remarks.


“I’ve been going to this festival for a real long time, and we've never seen a crowd like this,” said Conner, who also owns an antique and curiosities shop on Hwy. 53 East.


Festival attendee Dawson Whitmire said it’s no secret what brought people out this year.


“Same as every year,” said the Dawson County resident. “They’re here to see these nice, old cars.”


Antique automobiles lined the streets, many of them ’40 Fords — classic models often preferred by moonshine runners in the illegal liquor trade.


“I love a ’40 Ford,” said festival attendee Matt Fuller of Lawrenceville. “It’s the history of it. It’s the way it looks. Man … I just love everything about it.”


Fuller said he plans to purchase and restore a 1940 Ford and bring it back to next year’s Mountain Moonshine Festival.


“Seeing all these cars, it seals the deal. I gotta get me one,” Fuller said.


The cars weren’t the only reason people came out. Stacey Dyer of Dahlonega showed up for the festival fare.


“The food here, you can’t beat it,” Dyer said. “I know it’s not good for you, but it’s only once a year.”


Those in attendance sampled fried apple pies, funnel cakes, ribbon fries, boiled peanuts and pizza.


Many were drawn to the festival for its racing ties. NASCAR legend David Pearson served as Grand Marshal. The Grand Marshal's job is to formally announce the event's beginning.


Pearson led a parade through downtown Saturday morning and was later introduced by fellow NASCAR great and Dawsonville resident Bill Elliott.


KARE for Kids vice president Rhonda Goodwin said that, overall, the 43rd annual event was "a huge success."