Organizers estimate more than 100,000 people converged on downtown Dawsonville over the weekend for the 41st Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival, making the two-day event one of the largest gatherings in north Georgia.
Crowds came early and stayed late as local motels and lodges filled for the festival, which commemorates Dawsonville’s moonshining legacy and supports efforts to help local children in need.
The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame kicked off the festival Friday with a ceremony for new inductees.
Bill Gazaway, Jack Jackson, Sam McQuagg, Charlie Padgett, Randy Payne, Wilbur Rakestraw, Walter “Dub” Smith, Mike Swims, Charlie Mize and Tommy Moon were recognized for their contributions to auto racing.
The racing theme carried over to Saturday morning as the festival featured NASCAR great Buddy Baker as grand marshal and appearances by several NASCAR legends.
Racing fans and autograph-seekers lined up early for a glimpse of the greats and then spent the weekend taking in the local sights.
New to this year’s festival was a special autograph session with three brothers from Dawson County who play football for Georgia Tech.
Well-wishers waited for hours to greet Lance, Levi and Logan Walls, who graduated with honors from Dawson County High School.
“There were people lined up the entire time and we ran out of pictures in less than an hour,” said Robin Smith, who arranged the autograph session.
“The boys were so amazed and uplifted,” she said.
Lance Walls described the autograph session as “better than player appreciation day.”
The crowds were thick throughout the streets of Dawsonville on both Saturday and Sunday, taking in the nearly 300 vendor booths, some 250 vintage cars and dozens of entertainers.
Organizers were pleased with the outcome of months of hard work and preparation.
“What a turnout,” said Calvin Byrd, president of KARE for Kids, the local nonprofit that organizes the festival each year. “What a success.”
Proceeds from last year’s festival enabled KARE for Kids to provide Christmas presents to more than 200 families and 550 local children.
The group also helped more than 300 families with a range of needs throughout the year.
Byrd thanked the festival’s sponsors and volunteers for their hard work, noting that “without them the festival would not have been the success it was.”
With the event over, organizers will turn their attention to preparing for the Christmas season.
“We’re here for the kids,” Byrd said. “That’s what KARE for Kids started out doing and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
He and KARE volunteers will spend the next several weeks working to ensure local children have a joyous Christmas morning.
“We give each kid at least two toys, new clothes, sometimes shoes and coats, whatever the parents tell us the kids need,” Byrd said. “And we provide the family with all the food they need for a full Christmas dinner. Being able to do that is worth all the hard work.”
E-mail Michele Hester at email@example.com.