Read more about the 48th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival
Dawsonville's unique and storied past will come alive this weekend when thousands converge on downtown for the 48th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.
"If we have weather anything like we're seeing now, we're going to have a great weekend for the festival," said Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan.
An estimated 100,000 visitors are expected this weekend, with many pulling into the town as early as Friday morning to be a part of a Moonshine Run through the north Georgia mountains, where moonshiners of yesteryear made their living and supported their families making the illicit spirit.
"That's the only life we knew from the time we were little," said Roger Mincey, whose father is among five legendary liquor makers being inducted into the Moonshiner's Hall of Fame Saturday morning at the festival.
Vernon "Bug" Mincey, like much of the community that lived near the Dawson-Lumpkin County line on Hwy. 52, was a "true moonshiner," according to his youngest son Jerry Mincey.
"He earned [the induction]. He was a true moonshiner. He didn't necessarily do it for the money. He did because it was in his blood," Jerry Mincey said.
Caught twice by the law, Bug Mincey served both sentences for bootlegging on probation.
"First time they gave him time, but a local judge saw better and gave him probation on that one. The second time all he got was a fine and probation," Jerry Mincey said. "A lot of them used to say, when you've done it long enough, you was going to get caught. It was just when. It wasn't if you'd get caught. It was when."
Even as youngsters, the kids knew not to talk about moonshining, even though "everyone knew who was" making liquor, said Bug Mincey's daughter Dolores Bearden.
"That's just the way we grew up. We always knew the kids that went to school with us," she said. "We knew whose daddy was doing that too. We were kind of a clique. We always knew to keep our mouths shut, and what to say."
In recent years, the historical taboo associated with white lightening has grown into a powerful marketing tool for a new batch of legal moonshiners.
The new fascination with moonshine was one of the reasons Dawsonville historian Gordon Pirkle helped establish the Moonshiner's Hall of Fame in 2013.
"This is about the best group we've had yet," he said Monday.
Also from Dawsonville are inductees Doc Stephens and B.K. "JR" Tatum, along with old-time moonshiners Dwight Cass of North Caroline and Carlos Lovell, whose Mt. Airy family's illicit liquor making goes back many generations.
The men will be celebrated during the festival's opening ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m. on the stage in front of BK Sports, which follows a parade through downtown Dawsonville with legendary Georgia racer Ken Ragan serving as grand marshal.
There will be 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 throughout the weekend.