It’s that time of year; the time when friends, family, and members of the small town of Dawsonville, Georgia gather to welcome over 150,000 racing fans and auto enthusiasts. According to the 2012 United States Census, the town of Dawsonville, which covers just 1.9 square miles, holds 2,255 people. The 2012 Moonshine Festival was estimated at just close to 150,000 people. That’s more than 5 times than how many citizens live in the whole county.
But one may ask, what makes 150,000 spectators visit our tiny town? Way back in 1967, a man named Fred Goswick, a former moonshiner, set up two tables in front of the historic courthouse. On the October weekend, Fred displayed an old moonshine jug, along with some home-grown vegetables, and thus, what’s known as the Mountain Moonshine Festival was born. Until the late 80’s, the festival was held during three weekends, but wasn’t that large. One year, Gordon Pirkle, owner of the famous “Dawsonville Pool Room”, invited four friends, each who owned a 1940 Ford Coupe. He allowed the show cars to park at the old courthouse where Fred Goswick’s old display was. Not too long after the ‘moonshine era’ cars started to arrive, the name was changed to the ‘Moonshine Festival’ and attendance more than doubled, just because of the name.
In the early 1990’s, racing legend, Gober Sosebee started to bring his restored 1939 Ford racecar on display, which started the trend of the racecar parade. A man by the name of J.B Day offered to purchase Sosebee’s car, but was turned down. This persuaded Day to build himself a racecar of his own, which started his collection of almost two dozens vintage racecars in which he brings for all to enjoy.
Today, the festival draws over 50 vintage racecars (most were actual racers, not replicas) over 200 ‘moonshine era’ cars (1940 Fords, etc) and in total, over 1,500 cars – street rods, classics, hot rods, etc. You definitely will see something that you have never have before. There is also a craft show that hosts over 200 vendors and an auto-parts swap meet. This year will be a first with a live outdoor concert on Saturday evening featuring the country band, Confederate Railroad.
Another Moonshine tradition is the Grand Marshall. Since 1997, we’ve had interesting and historic ‘Master of Ceremonies’. Fred Goswick was named Honorary Grand Marshall for the first time in 97, and since, legends such as Raymond Parks, David Pearson, Bill Elliott, Louise Smith, Russ Truelove, Bud Moore, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Ray Fox and more have all been honored to serve the weekend long term. This year, Jeff & Mark, from the hit Discovery Channel program, “Moonshiners”, will serve as “Grand Marshalls”.
So, if you ever find yourself near Dawsonville, Georgia during the 4th Weekend of October, it’s well worth your time to visit the ‘Mountain Moonshine Festival’.