A festival to remember

Thousands of people will flock to downtown Hartselle for the city’s annual Depot Days Festival on Saturday. Their presence will underscore its popularity as a crowd pleaser. 

Its schedule of events offers something for everyone—musical entertainment, antique car and tractor shows, children’s rides, merchandise and food vendors, shopping at antique and specialty shops and much more.

Thinking about the chamber’s regional award-winning festival reminds me of another  unique and successful festival I attended in West Georgia with my wife Geanell and two of our friends, the late Bert and Hilda Ward, over 20 years ago.

Our interest in the remote arts and crafts festival stemmed from reading about its popularity in an article published in Southern Living magazine.

The weekend event was staged in a remote wooded area about 50 miles west of Atlanta, Ga.  Attendees were required to park in a big field a mile away from the fair grounds and county school buses were used to shuttle them to and from the site.

Over 150 artists and crafters, representing several southeastern states, displayed their work in a 40-acre tract of woods, using live demonstrations in crafts such as blacksmithing, pottery, glass blowing, chair caning, hand quilting and shuck doll making.

One of the things that set the event apart from others was the level of participation of local churches, schools and rural organizations.

FFA chapters barbecued half chickens in underground pits and sold them with sides and a drink as a fundraiser. FFA chapters served an all-vegetable meal their members and teachers cooked on open fires, and church organizations sold made-from scratch cakes, cookies and half-moon fried fruit pies.

A traditional feature of the event was to book a highly acclaimed music group for entertainment. The U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps gave three performances from the front porch of a rustic dogtrot farmhouse on the Saturday we visited.

Much to our surprise, we had a fun-filled September day sightseeing, eating, being entertained and talking with strangers.  Those attending the Depot Days Festival can expect to have a memorable day of their own.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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