In spite of the threat of inclement weather, the 64th annual Gold Rush Days Festival in Dahlonega went ahead as planned this weekend.
The festival, run by the Dahlonega Jaycees, is an annual celebration of the Georgia Gold Rush in 1828. Since its inception, Gold Rush has brought in both local visitors, Georgians from several hours away, and even some people from out of state. According to the festival’s official site, the event brings in an estimated 200,000 people every year.
As for how it manages these numbers, Dahlonega Jaycees President Melissa Walton attributes it to Southern traditions and how the festival is able to capture them in one weekend.
“I think it’s just that tradition of coming and hoping to pass that on from generation to generation,” Walton said. “For people coming into the town to find the small town that’s just full of love, community, and I think that’s what brings people to our festival.”
The vendors present at Gold Rush, several of which are from local businesses or neighboring towns, focus on art, crafts, activities and music rooted in Southern culture.
The entertainment, such as groups The Dahlonega Bluegrass Project and T.W. Holeman Music Group, which play bluegrass and gospel music respectively, are also based in Dahlonega and the neighboring area.
According to attendees like Kimberly Orozco, who lived in Dahlonega until about 10 years ago, Gold Rush’s atmosphere reminds her and her husband of a simpler time that she finds Dahlonega encapsulates, which is why she makes a point to come back even after moving to Cornelia.
“We still make it a point to go every year because of the historical feel and culture,” Orozco said. “The music, the events they do take you back to before all the electronics and it’s a nice thing to break away from the busy-ness of current day life. Also (I) love visiting the shops and all of the local vender and their crafts.”
Beyond the vendors and entertainment, the Gold Rush Days Parade is part of the festival’s annual traditions, and for those who have taken part, such as Brooke Massey of University of North Georgia’s Corp of Cadets, Gold Rush fosters a sense of camaraderie and connection to the town.
“The fact that I participated in the parade and could look out into the crowd and see smiles and salutes when the Corps went by,” Massey said. “It’s pride I guess, to be apart of something bigger than myself.”
As for whether the rain would have an effect on the festival, Walton wasn’t worried about it, and the Jaycees have prepared for any weather.
“Gold Rush Days Festival continues rain or shine, and we have different plans in place with the weather,” Walton said. “We just hope and pray that we will have good weather that people will still continue to come out regardless of the situation.”
The festival continues today.
Dahlonega Gold Rush Days Festival
What: Annual festival celebrating Dahlonega gold rush
Where: Near the Visitor’s Center at E. Main Street and S. Park Street
When: Opens at 9 a.m. today