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Changes coming this year to Dawsonville’s Moonshine Festival
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Visitors to the 2016 Mountain Moonshine Festival watch as cars rumble past on Hwy. 9 in downtown Dawsonville. Proceeds of the festival go to K.A.R.E for Kids, a non-profit charity in Dawson County that provides less fortunate children with necessities throughout the year and gifts at Christmas. - photo by Allie Dean

By Jessica Brown

Organizers are putting in overtime to make sure the Mountain Moonshine Festival coming this weekend to Dawsonville is as smooth as possible for its attendees.

The festival full of local flavor, from car shows to handmade crafts to family-friendly games, is working around a few changes in its 51st year in car-crazy Dawsonville.

K.A.R.E. for Kids interim President Rhonda Goodwin, whose organization manages the festival and is its primary beneficiary, says traffic and logistics changes will make the festival an easy experience for locals and visitors — more than 100,000 of which are expected to flow through the event this year.

Ensuring traffic flows smoothly has been the main goal for Goodwin for this year’s festival.

“As a whole it’s very, very pleasant. What makes it unpleasant sometimes is the difficulty getting in and getting out,” Goodwin said. “My goal this year was to make it easy to get in because once you’re in everyone’s going to enjoy it.”

By streamlining the entries for the show cars, moonshine cars and parade cars to their own entrances, organizers hope to make the process less frustrating and more efficient.

There will be several road closures this weekend due to festival activities.

On Friday morning, Allen Street will be closed for the car show. On Friday afternoon Hwy. 53 near Jack Heard Road will be closed to keep traffic from entering the vendor areas.

Public parking is $10 with several lots located around the historic downtown.

A free shuttle service provided by K.A.R.E. for Kids will take festival-goers from parking lots to the festivities.

Another big change for the 51st annual festival is the noticeable lack of the swap meet because of the ongoing construction of Main Street Park behind Food Lion.

“Every year we kind of have to reinvent the wheel in some aspect but with that construction that’s the biggest wheel we’re reinventing this year,” Goodwin said.

It has been an adjustment for the car enthusiasts who were hoping to score hard-to-find antique car parts at the three-day car show, but ultimately they understand why it’s not feasible this year.

“It’s growing pains,” Goodwin said. “It just means we’re going to have a nicer facility next year. We try to stay positive.”

Despite these changes, the festival still promises the same family-friendly fun with over 250 vendors signed up to line the streets of downtown with their wares, and a full calendar of entertainment is planned at three different stages around the festival.

The annual parade, led by Grand Marshal Jimmy Spencer, will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with opening ceremonies immediately following.

At the opening ceremonies, the National Moonshiners Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized. This year’s inductees are Benny Bearden of Cumming, John Pinnion of Dawsonville, Wayne Stone of Blue Ridge, Kenneth Nichols of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and Ray Hudson of Boonville, North Carolina.

Spencer will also be available to sign autographs at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame after the parade.

“We’re very grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding and cooperation that we feel like working together we can accomplish better things for our community,” Goodwin said. “It’s a team effort.”

K.A.R.E. for Kids now hosts the festival each year as a fundraiser to help the nonprofit give local children Christmas presents and other assistance throughout the year.

The festival will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.

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A young boy gets his face painted by a vendor at the 2016 Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville. The festival attracts more than 100,000 people each year. - photo by Allie Dean
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