Inman Farm Heritage Days starts Friday

Inman Farm Heritage Days starts Friday

By Jim Minter
Special to the Fayette Citizen

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the whiskey still on the creek is one of the most popular exhibits at Inman Farm Heritage Days, the Fayette County festival that each September celebrates rural life as it was in the South before World War II.

Whiskey making was a necessary and respected way of life brought over by our ancestors from Ireland and Scotland. The product was used for medicine, to buy a pair of shoes for a child to go to school and to liven up a Saturday night square dances after a week of hard work.

Given a boost by Prohibition in the 1920s, “moonshining” has by no means been a foreign enterprise in the mountains of North Georgia or in our area below Atlanta. Since the purpose of Inman Farm Heritage Days is to reflect life in past times, a demonstration whiskey still was added to go along with the syrup mill, the grist mill, the cotton gin and other devices common to “olden times.”

Permission to build a “working” still on the Farm Festival site was granted by then Sheriff Randall Johnson, a legendary “still buster” in his days as a revenue officer.

Clarence Betsill, patriarch of a pioneer South Fayette County family, volunteered to construct an authentic still just like the ones used for years on creeks in the woods around Inman. Unfortunately, Clarence died after just two seasons of exhibiting his still.

His nephews, and his son, Keith, stepped in to fill his shoes and Clarence’s still will be running as usual when the 14th Annual Inman Farm Heritage Days opens this Friday, Sept. 17, and continuing through Sunday, Sept. 19. Admission is free.

Clarence’s nephew, Joe Betsill, who assists Keith in demonstrations of the moonshining process, said he enjoys explaining the way of a moonshiner’s life to festival visitors.

“My daddy was never ashamed of it,” Joe said. “It gave us things we wouldn’t have had been able to afford without it, like wearing new shoes to school.
“It was a tradition in our family,” he explained. ”My daddy used to say that no matter how old or feeble you get, you can’t get it out of your blood.”

Maybe this is a good time to state that what made, and still makes, moonshining illegal, is not a moral issue about alcohol but rather a money issue. It is illegal because the government doesn’t collect taxes on moonshine whereas “government liquor” brings in lot of dollars.

Thanks to the Betsill whiskey still and other exhibits demonstrating bygone ways of life, as well as a bygone way of making ends meet, in the rural South, Inman Farm Heritage Days has evolved into more that just an antique tractor and antique engine show that laid down the foundation for success 14 years ago. Tractors and engines, however, remain a highly popular attraction. From 250 to 300 exhibitors continue to pack the grounds each third weekend in September.

Exhibits include:
• A print shop with operating 100-year-old hand turned presses making flyers and coloring sheets handed out to festival visitors.

• Weaving room, with spinning wheel, showing how cloth was made in pioneer homes.

• Pea thrasher, an antique machine that separates peas from the pod.

• Operating Cotton gin, including display of a bale ginned 100 years ago in Fayette County.

• Wheat threshing and straw baling with antique farm machines.

• Blacksmithing and farm tool making by hand.

• Grist mill, grinding corn into meal.

• Syrup making, cane grinding and cooking.

• Old Country store from early 1900s.

• One room school house from early 1900s.

• Miss Quinnie’s Cabin, authenic structure moved from North Fayette County.

“With these exhibits, our food and other vendors, the over 200 tractors plus a large number of small engines and blue grass music, we have something for everybody and a comprehensive picture of how our ancestors lived in a rural and isolated community,” said festival organizer Rick Minter.

Many of the tractors and small engines entered in the show have been carefully restored to mint condition by their owners, who come from Fayette and surrounding counties in Georgia as well as from neighboring states.

“Many or our exhibitors are using mechanical skills learned from their fathers and grandfathers but we also have younger ones who keeping alive the ways of doing things with your own hands. We think that’s something to be preserved. It’s nice to know people can still fix things themselves without depending on somebody, or some gadget, at a high tech shop,” Minter said. “This show is a way of making younger people realize where we came from, and how we got where we are now.

“We are proud that we continue to put on this show without charging admission,” he added. “So far, we’ve been able to do this, thanks to our sponsors and a few generous friends.”

Show times are Friday 9 a.m. until dark; Saturday 9 a.m. until dark and Sunday 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Handicap parking is available on the on-site parking lots. Transporting from off site parking lots will be by farm wagons.

The Sunday schedule includes the annual 9 a.m. church service in the woods, near the site where the Inman Methodist Church held brush arbor services in the 19th century. Rev. Ray Camp will preach.

The festival is located at 283 Hills Bridge Rd. in Inman, five miles south of Fayetteville on Highway 92 South. For more information visit www.inmanfarm.com or call 770-461-2840.

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