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Third-annual Walnut Festival in the books

From Johnna Prater
Walnut Festival Co-Founder

Photo courtesy of JOSIE WIREMAN BAILEY

With the cool nights and frosted mornings, we are reminded that fall has arrived. The leaves are starting to burst their last colors before they wither and fall to winter slumber. Along with them are the black walnuts native to our area that we love to collect and use for everything from candy to cakes, to back scratchers. All of this reminds me of the cycle of life we are all passing thru, some with this Covid before we wanted them to as it has touched all the people in some way or another in our county. Lost but not forgotten, we will miss all our people that are no longer with us. With this gloomy virus that has hovered over our nation for the last 18 months, it is nice to have something to look forward to.

Being blessed with this wonderful native nut, we have celebrated its abundance the last three years with our fall Walnut Festival at Half Mountain Park. Founded three years ago by four Royalton residents; Paul Bailey, Marlene Howard, Karen Merritt and Johnna Arnett Prater, this year was one for the records, with so many patrons coming to enjoy a multitude of activities for adults and kids, music, food and local vendor products, etc. The festival got off to a great start when our local VA did an outstanding flag presentation and our County Judge Mathew Wireman emceed the presentation and led the group in the pledge of allegiance. After Judge Wireman finished, the national anthem was sung by Erin Rudd, and she did a stellar job of singing this beloved song.

The festival this year has grown and incorporated several new activities. A petting zoo was set up and face painting for the kids that accompanied their parents. For the first time there was a car show, that because of the weather, the morning of lagged a little, but still had many beautiful cars to view. The festival offered up dozens of vendors selling locally sourced products, baked goods, craft goods, and merchandise that was relevant to our area. There were many donated raffle items, including an old banjo that had been reconditioned by local musician Jackie Williams, and other items that were raffled off to help sponsor the bands.

The food at the festival this year was simply outstanding! Fish dinners, BBQ, loaded fries, funnel cakes, cheesecake, snow cones, caramel apples, hotdogs, burgers and lots in between. There definitely was no shortage of great food for every palate. There were also many vendors who had made home canned goods and baked goods. Candys, sweet breads, apple butter and much more was available for purchase.

The entertainment was of course the highlight of our festival. Doug Joseph, Eddie Jenkins, and Rick Howard was in charge of sound and stage and kept the music going thru wind and elements. Many local bands came together to perform from 11 a.m. thru 7 p.m., with music all day long leading up to our headliner. Local girl done good and came home to perform new songs and well-known songs from previous albums – Rebecca Lynn Howard was stunning. She sang and played her guitar for a full hour in the cold to her friends and neighbors who were so happy that she was back home performing, again.

All in all, the festival was a huge success, having an estimate of triple the people in attendance of last year. The Half Mountain Park was beautiful and had plenty of open space to accommodate them and many more for next year. Music, food, fun and community are what this festival is all about. If you missed it this year, mark your calendar for next year because it will be October 15, 2021, and the activities, bands and food is only going to get better.

But, alas, all good things must pass, and new ones come to light, just like the circle, so as we move towards Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas wrapping this year up, pull your family together. Cherish each other and be thankful for those who have come thru this trying pandemic with your loved ones. I, for one, am very thankful for my little family and all the friends that made me a part of their life and family. Take time to spend with the people who you matter to because time is fleeting. Happy Fall, everyone!

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