2017-10-12 / Front Page

Live demonstrations showcase farm life at Mule Day festival

The 37th annual Mule Day South­ern Heritage Festival will feature crowd favorites and a variety of new artistry at Callaway Planta­tion in Washington, as this year’s celebration gets underway on Sat­urday, October 14, running from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“We have a lot going on this year that’s new so we’re really excited about it,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Singleton said.

As Mule Day is considered a celebration of rural farm life in Georgia from the late 1700s to the 1900s, festival-goers can expect a day’.s. worth. of. period-.centric ac­tivities . and displays, including mule contests and sheep dog herding, interactive plowing demonstrations, and kids games such as sack races and egg-and-spoon races. How­ever, music from a hodgepodge of performers, museum tours, primi­tive craft demonstrations, and War Between the States re-enactors will also fill the scheduled itinerary with family-friendly fun.

“We’ve got some really good craft and food vendors this year too,” Singleton added.

“The group I’m really excited about is Have Wagons – .Will..Tra­vel,” .

Singleton said. “They’re bringing in an old fashioned jail wagon, chuck wagon, and tinker wagon, so come and get a picture taken in the old jail wagon! They’re a group of re-enactors that will dem­onstrate what it was like to cook on the frontier, and they should have samples for people to try out.”

As a special surprise from the collection of other re-enactors, Singleton let slip, “rumor has it that a shoot out may take place in front of the old country store.”

While Callaway Plantation will be open for view, the grey house and log cabin will feature weav­ing and quilting displays, where fifth-generation quilter, abolition­ist, and historian Teresa Kemp will highlight an assortment of quilts and artifacts pertinent to the Under­ground Railroad.

Local talent Zena Zahran will be on the porch of the country store making pine straw baskets, show­casing this unique art form.

The Garden City Strummers will perform in the brick house through­out the day, and with a club of dul­cimer enthusiasts nearby listeners will enjoy the rustic harmonies of the mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, and other acoustical in­struments. The group has performed for over 15 years, and is a satellite of the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association, an organi­zation with hundreds of members from several states, which believes the dulcimer is “truly an American instrument from the 1800s.”

Other performances will include Shay Harris’ music students and the HIT String Band, which will play in the schoolhouse throughout the day.

Alongside the HIT band will be historical figure Ann Quigley (portrayed by Emily Johns), who operated a schoolhouse in 1832. Quigley will provide histories and facts regarding education during the time period.

“With that we’re trying to pull the attention of our visitors and direct them to the other museums that we have in Washington,” Singleton said. “We want to establish the con­nection between education on the farmlands and education in town, and make people aware of the joined histories.”

Other events will include day­long demonstrations of turpentine production, soap making, and blacksmithing. Children can also enjoy many hands-on activities such as rope making and weaving on a loom. As guests walk the grounds, they will also see an impressive col­lection of antique cars and vintage tractors on display.

“It’s important for everybody to know that Brickhouse Road, normally the entrance to Callaway, will be closed, and the entrance to parking is on down beyond the mule corral,” Singleton explained.

Brickhouse Road, the narrow dirt county road that goes into city-owned Callaway Plantation, has long been inadequate to handle heavy, two-way traffic for Mule Day crowds, and for years, city and county leaders had talked about making changes to the layout, finally taking action in 2012. This will be the fifth year with the new parking arrangement, and it seems to be working to keep back-up to a minimum on the Athens Highway, Singleton added.

The cost is $10 per vehicle, and guests will receive a brochure upon entry. The brochure will feature a map with outlined activities and the day’s itinerary.

Officials with Callaway Planta­tion and the Chamber of Commerce explained, “Mule Day takes place on the 56-acre Callaway Planta­tion and offers a glimpse into the bygone era of the agricultural south when working plantations speckled the land. Callaway Plantation tells the story of one family’s 200-year progression from a humble log cabin to a Greek-Revival mansion. With its collection of barns, school­house, and three restored homes, Callaway Plantation provides the perfect background for this annual festival.”

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