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Good weather, moonshine nostalgia draws crowds
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Classic and restored cars from all eras were on display at several locations during the 47th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

The more than 100,000 visitors that flock to Dawsonville the fourth weekend in October couldn't have asked for better weather for the 47th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.

The "birthplace of NASCAR" celebrated its heritage last weekend by holding the annual festival right on the crossroads of the highway that made its illegal liquor business famous.

The festival isn't just to celebrate the past, however. It is also the largest fundraiser for charity organization Kids are Really Equal, or K.A.R.E. for Kids.

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.

The festival goers are also happy with the setup.
"This is our first visit to this festival ... and it's wonderful. Even though this is a moonshine festival, there is still a lot of kid-friendly things, as well as the Christmas drive for kids," said Mary Frederick of Toccoa.

"We were friends with [late famous moonshiner] Popcorn Sutton. We came to visit with his wife, and she's here, so we came with her."

The festivities kicked 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 began with a parade of antique race cars and moonshine haulers at 9 a.m., featuring drag racer Hubert Platt, the Georgia Shaker, serving as grand marshal. Opening ceremonies were at 10 a.m. on the main stage in front of BK Sports.

In addition to tours, there was also a silent auction and grand casino night event that benefits the racing museum.

The festival is also no stranger to celebrities, with last year's appearance by famous TV moonshiners. This year, two NASCAR drivers signed autographs.

Rising star Chase Elliott signed autographs Saturday at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, with lines of eager fans stretching around the building.

Also signing autographs was Elliott's father, NASCAR legend Bill Elliott.

The elder Elliott signed autographs to a packed city block, promoting his new moonshine label.

"We were going to Cades Cove and found this festival," said Amy Davis of Dalton. "My husband is a huge Bill Elliott fan, so [the signing] worked out. This is the first time I've been here and I love it, here in the mountains."
Also debuting at the festival was this year's class of the National Moonshine Hall of Fame.

Guy Rouse, Roy "Snuffy" Jones and Ben Chastain of Dawsonville are among five bootleggers inducted Saturday.

Rouse "probably hauled more whiskey out of Dawson County than anybody else," said Gordon Pirkle, who helped establish the hall 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.