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Festival makes Dawsonville shine
A-Moonshine Festival pic1
Dawsonvilles unique moonshine heritage brought an estimated 100,000 visitors to downtown during the 48th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

K.A.R.E. for Kids will be accepting applications for assistance for the 2015 Christmas season at 671 Lumpkin Campground Rd., Suite 110 (Campground Center). The organization will be accepting applications from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 31, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 2 and 9 and from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 7 and 14. For more information, call (706) 216-5273 or email Christmas@kareforkids.org.

Organizers won't say it was the biggest of all time, but they are proud to admit the 48th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival was one of the best.

"You couldn't have asked for better weather. The car show did awesome. The downtown festival was awesome," said David McKee, president of K.A.R.E. for Kids, which puts on the annual fall festival in downtown Dawsonville.

"The vendors that I spoke to said they had a really good weekend and enjoyed it. Even with the changes that we made with adding some vendor locations, it was still very packed almost the entire day Saturday."

The three-day festival shifted into gear Friday morning with the annual "Moonshine Run" through the north Georgia mountains, and continued through Sunday on the downtown square, where an estimated 100,000 visitors joined in for the fun.

With vendors from across the Southeast, local entertainment on two stages and one of the largest collections of hot rods and racecars at any festival in the nation, the Moonshine Festival pays tribute to the area's unique high octane heritage of white lightning and fast cars.

A dedicated race fan that travels from city to city gathering driver autographs, Ron Kelsey said nothing could stop him from missing the festival.

Despite having a few medical issues earlier this year, Kelsey and his wife Mary drove from Tampa for the festivities.

"We just love coming to the Moonshine Festival," he said.

For Kelsey, it's the fast cars that draw him to Dawsonville each fall, but white lightning was the lure that had Amanda Rowland and her mother Loretta Whittington driving in from Madison County.

The two are fans of the hit Discovery channel series Moonshiners, and specifically one of the show's stars, Jeff Waldroup, who was in town for the festival.

"We're here for it all, but especially for Jeff from Moonshiners," Whittington said.

With a great grandfather who was a moonshiner, Rowland said she enjoyed looking back on the history of the illegal trade and then looking forward to see how it's grown into a legit business today.

"Moonshine used to be illegal and now there are festivals where you can try different ones and ones that are legal," she said.

Volunteers at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame said several thousand race fans, car enthusiasts and moonshine seekers visited the museum and Dawsonville's legal moonshine distillery located inside the city's municipal complex.

Like K.A.R.E. for Kids, which uses funds collected to purchase holiday presents and necessities for local children, several local non-profit organizations, including the museum, Civitan, Rotary Club, Lions Club, Boy Scouts and Vietnam veteran chapter, utilize the festival as a fundraising campaign.

"Simply put, the local Boy Scout group could not function without the festival," said McKee.

The scouts use the funds they collect for manning the parking lots at the festival for expenses such as buying uniforms and paying for camps.

They also set up and take down the road barricades that close the festival to traffic.

"They were out until one in the morning on Sunday taking down the barricades," McKee said.

K.A.R.E. for Kids is currently accepting applications for this year's holiday assistance program that is funded through the festival.

"We've already started working on the Christmas project. Oct. 16 was our first sign up day," McKee said. "We take applications twice a week. So then what we do, once we get a group of kids, we start shopping."

Last year, the group helped provide Christmas presents for more than 750 children in Dawson County.

"We personally shop for each individual child, and they get socks, underwear, three sets of clothes, shoes, gloves, hat and a couple of toy items," he said.

McKee thanked the community for its support of the festival.

"I'll say thank you on behalf of K.A.R.E. for Kids ... thank you to every one of the volunteers and anyone that had anything to do with helping us have a successful festival," he said.