Fast Facts:Where: Blairsville, GA
When: 2nd and 3rd week of October
What: Small town celebration centered on sorghum, a staple of early Georgia farmers
Sorghum -- The third most popular cereal grain in the United States is a staple throughout the world. Georgia is a major producer of the grain, used in porridge, unleavened bread, cookies, cakes, couscous, and (ahem) malted beverages. Sorghum has been a popular crop in north Georgia since the land was settled in the 1830s, and Blairsville celebrates this early staple on the second, third and fourth weekends each October (the time the crop comes in). In 1995 the Sorghum Festival in Blairsville was designated Georgia's official sorghum festival.
Mill Wheel on a parade float
It is truly a festive time as this small town (population 700 according to the Chamber of Commerce site) concentrates on Meeks Park, just west of downtown to make sorghum syrup and serve it up to visitors. Once held in downtown at the defunct Fort Sorghum, sorghum syrup and other products made from this crop still power the local economy. It is a unique crop because it is one of the few that can be raised in north Georgia that contain sugar, a key ingredient in cooking and (ahem) making distilled spirits. When early settlers cleared the land one of, if not the first crop planted, was sorghum, partly so Mom could use it in her cooking, partly so Dad could make some Saturday Night Special.
Blairsville is about 100 miles north of Atlanta, easily reached by taking the Georgia Mountain Parkway. The Union County Courthouse allows visitors to understand what life was like in a rural small town in North Georgia from 1832 (time of the sixth "Land Lottery") through the 20th century.
Kids getting ready to perform
While Meeks Park is the centerpiece of the festival, the parade that begins this two-week extravaganza is far and away the most popular event, drawing enthusiasts from the northern third of the state. In spite of the festival's growing popularity the parade has managed to retain its "small-town" flavor, with local businesses and civic groups creating floats, populated by adults and kids (and a dog here and there) who are having fun! Visitors on the side of the road have fun, too, since the parade participants shower the audience with candy and trinkets.
Tending to the sorghum
Other events during the festival include typical fair-style competitions that allow local residents to compete for prizes. Bluegrass music, cloggers and other forms of entertainment enhance the event, which features a wide array of artists and craftsmen who sell handmade goods. Come during leaf change (normally the third weekend of the month at nearby Brasstown Bald, fourth weekend of the month throughout much of the northern tier of the state) and enhance your visit with a scenic drive.
Take I-575 north to the Georgia Mountain Parkway, known locally as the four-lane. Follow the Parkway for 61 miles to Blairsville. Turn right on Meeks Road and follow directions from the festival parking attendents