It's not every day that white lightning and fast cars are harmoniously fused, except on the fourth weekend in October at the annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in downtown Dawsonville.
Known as the birthplace of NASCAR and the moonshine capital of the world, Dawsonville proudly celebrates its storied heritage by paying tribute to the illegal liquor makers and the men than raced south on Thunder Road (Hwy. 9) to Atlanta to deliver the goods and create the popular sport.
Guy Rouse, Roy "Snuffy" Jones and Ben Chastain of Dawsonville are among five bootleggers to be recognized Saturday as thousands of visitors roar into town for the festival, now in its 47th year.
Rouse "probably hauled more whiskey out of Dawson County than anybody else," said Gordon Pirkle, who helped establish the National Moonshiners Hall of Fame in 2013.
Jones, Pirkle said, was one of the biggest manufacturers of moonshine in the county, while Chastain can take credit for shipping truckloads of the illegal spirits to other southern states.
"Ben Chastain sold tractor trailer loads of moonshine to Junior Johnson," Pirkle said.
The festivities kick off Friday morning with a Moonshine Run through the north Georgia mountains, followed by a cruise-in that night in the parking lot of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
Saturday's events begin with a parade of antique racecars and moonshine haulers at 9 a.m., featuring drag racer Hubert Platt, the Georgia Shaker, serving as grand marshal. Opening ceremonies are at 10 a.m. on the main stage in front of BK Sports.
Activities for the entire family, including more than 500 vendor booths, one of the largest displays of racecars and hotrods, a silent auction and live entertainment, continue throughout the weekend.
There will also be driver autograph sessions. NASCAR legend Bill Elliott is scheduled to be at City Liquor from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday to launch his new moonshine, made locally at the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery.
His son Chase Elliott, rising star in NASCAR's Nationwide Series, will sign autographs from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Rocky Ridge Truck's vendor booth in front of the racing museum.
New this year is a collaboration with the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in an attempt to expand the festival offerings and open a wider range of interest in Dawsonville's unique racing history.
For the past several weeks, volunteers have worked to revitalize the racing museum, which documents the Elliott family's rise to stardom on the national racing circuit, as well as houses memorabilia from various Georgia racers.
In addition to tours, there will also be a silent auction and Grand Casino night event that benefits the museum. The casino will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $35 to play.
K.A.R.E. for Kids President Calvin Byrd said the group, which organizes the festival in support of raising funds for local children at Christmas, is proud of the partnership.