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Heritage celebrated
Event raises money for nonprofit
1 Heritage Celebrated pic1
Officials estimate more 100,000 people visited downtown Dawsonville over the weekend as part of the 46th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Some say 100,000 visitors. Others say 150,000. Either way, the streets of Dawsonville were packed over the weekend for the 46th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.

"It started off cold on Saturday morning, but once the sun came out, the rest of the weekend was perfect," said Calvin Byrd, president of K.A.R.E. for Kids, which organizes the event.

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.

With vendors from across the Southeast, live entertainment including nationally recognized Confederate Railroad 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.

"Where else can you go in the country and see this many cars of this caliber in one area," said Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan. "We're just so happy to welcome you into our city."

New this year, the festival also celebrated pioneers of the illegal liquor trade by inducting the inaugural class of the National Moonshiners Hall of Fame during opening ceremonies Saturday. Among the inductees were Dawsonville natives Brock Crane and Duck Thurmond.

Their proud daughters, Aline McClure and Carolyn Cantrell, accepted the awards for their late fathers.

"I just wish that dad could have been here today. I know that he would be very, very proud," said McClure of Crane, who many in town knew as the "Apple Jack Man" for his apple brandy.

Hall of Fame president Gordon Pirkle called Crane his hero.

"I'm real proud to see him be one of the first to go into the hall of fame. He was known to have the best apple brandy in the whole world," he said.

Cantrell thanked Pirkle and "all the people that got together and decided to present this honor to the men that made whiskey in Dawson County."

"They did that to support their family and they were all good men. My dad was one of the finest men you'd ever know," she said.

Also inducted were Simmie Free, whose multi-generational family recipe paved the way for the first legal distilled moonshine produced in Georgia, and nationally recognized distillers Jeff Waldroup and X Mark from the cable series "Moonshiners."

The plaques recognizing each of the inductees are on display at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, near the entrance to the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery.

Organizers said they want to thank the community for its support of the festival, even though there is still some disagreement over whether the area's moonshining past should be celebrated.

"There's a lot of hard work that goes into this festival. The whole community really gets behind this organization," Byrd 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.

"I'd like to thank all the volunteers that help out with the organization. All the money that's raised this weekend and all year around help less fortunate kids for them to have a Christmas," he said.