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Saddle up the mules! Annual fesitval starts Friday
Mule Camp Market brings in the fall, helps out community
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Streets around the square in downtown Gainesville will close at 5 p.m. Thursday to begin preparing for the 175 booths and two stages that will be the site of the three-day 2007 Mule Camp Market Festival that begins on Friday.

Michael John Lovell, director of the festival, said that this year marks the 15th year the Gainesville Jaycees have held the event.

"Mule Camp is a way for the city of Gainesville to have a festival they can call their own," he said.

The festival is set to begin on Friday morning and last through Sunday afternoon. A variety of entertainment will be provided, including dancers, a blacksmith demonstration, local drama groups and bluegrass, blues and gospel acts.

Several vendors will be selling foods of all types — gyros, funnel cakes, barbecue and pork rinds. "Any kind of food you can think of will be in that food court," Lovell said.

Dozens of vendors also will be enticing festival goers with their home-made goods. Crafters will sell wooden toys and homemade pocketbooks, jewelry, leather goods, soap and candles. Hand-sewn blankets and clothing will be sold as well. And local artist Jay Kemp will be selling his scenic paintings alongside a caricature artist.

But there’s fun for the kids, too. Roosevelt Square by the courthouse will have pony rides, a petting zoo, a moonwalk and children’s rides.

There’s even fun for big kids. High school students from Gainesville, Lakeview Academy, Flowery Branch, Chestatee, West Hall and East Hall high schools have been participating in a playhouse

building contest that benefits Habitat for Humanity of Hall County’s Women Build Project.

For the second year, local high school construction classes will build a playhouse to be displayed and raffled off at the Mule Camp Market Festival. Buckets will be placed in front of each of the six playhouses on Spring Street and raffle ticket-holders can place their tickets in one or all of the playhouses they would like to win. A small awards ceremony will be held Sunday on the Mule Camp main stage to determine the playhouse winner.

"It was a successful fundraiser last year," Women Build Project co-chairwoman Holly Owens said. "We expect great things this year."

Owens said the playhouse raffle generated $10,000 last year to benefit the Habitat for Humanity Women Build Project’s Habitat house. She said that it costs about $55,000 in construction materials to build each Habitat house.

High school students are selling raffle tickets for $5 each, or five tickets for $20.

Owens said that the Women Build Project supplies the high school construction students with the basic materials needed to complete a playhouse, and students are also allowed to pool resources from within the school.

"We give them the creative freedom to build any type of house they want," she said.

And students take that freedom and run with it.

Last year, East Hall High School won the playhouse competition with it’s John Deere-themed construction.

The primary requirement for the competition is that the playhouse must be no larger than eight feet by eight feet and no taller than 12 feet. A-1 Towing and Wrecker Service and Alton Edge Wrecker Service have volunteered to use their trucks to transport the houses to the square on Thursday and to the homes of raffle winners on Sunday.

This year, the 20 construction students at Chestatee High School who worked on the playhouse are going to give East Hall students a run for their money.

Chestatee students have spent a month developing a plan and building a "Dukes of Hazzard"-themed playhouse. The exterior of the house is modeled after the show’s General Lee, a ’69 Dodge Charger. The house is painted orange and sports big ‘01’ racing numbers on the side. Charger emblems on the outside of the house and an original ’69 Charger doorhandle on the front door completes the vintage car theme.

The interior of the playhouse has a lofted second story and mimics ‘Hazzard" character Cooter’s garage. Rusty license plates from Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio line the wall, as well as dipsticks, mechanic gloves and wrenches. A "redneck wind chime" hangs from the ceiling with four dangling spark plugs.

An inconspicuous doorbell near the front door of the playhouse adds the most character to the project. When a student presses the doorbell, the sound of General Lee’s horn, Dixie tune and all, instantly rings throughout the little house.

Chestatee students conceived and built the entire house, from the electrical wiring to the multi-tone interior and floor system.

Students said they went through five or six ideas, such as a firehouse and log cabin, before they decided on the "Dukes of Hazzard" theme.

"There was a lot of hard work and time that went into building the whole playhouse," said Chestatee sophomore Zach Brown. "The most difficult part was the compound roof system, trying to tie in two different pitches into one roof," he said.

"This is the first playhouse my students have built that I didn’t pick up a single tool to help," said Chestatee construction teacher Baker Pulliam, and added that his students experience a lot by participating in the playhouse project.

"They learn about giving back to the community, helping people in need and friendly competition between schools," he said.

At the awards ceremony, Pulliam said that all schools are awarded a plaque, but the title of "Best in Show" is what all the students are shooting for.

"Whoever wins best in show earns bragging rights for a year," he said.

"If we don’t win this year," Brown said, "then we’ll have to work even harder next year."

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