Something for everyone

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The 37th annual Pioneer Days brought out both the good guys and the villains for a high action weekend of festivities in High Springs.  

 HIGH SPRINGS – The James Paul Park in High Springs was a festival visitor’s paradise on Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28. The area bustled with activity from approximately 5,000 visitors, more than 30 fine arts and crafts booths, Heritage Village with pioneer demonstrators, non-stop music, Kids Korral, the Festival Food Court, business expos, a farmer’s market and the addition of the newly-created Railroad and Black History Museums, both of which were located in the old school house building.

      There was something for everyone to enjoy and the weather did not disappoint with sunshine and breezy conditions throughout both days. Heritage Village, with everyone dressed in period garb, boasted demonstrations of an old-fashioned spinning wheel, blacksmithing and the Rose Creek Band of Muskogee Indians, who demonstrated various crafts, tribal customs, ceremonial dances and talked about life during pioneer days. They shared related displays with visitors as well as providing a lean-to type of structure common during pioneer days.

      Historic Dudley Farms State Park sent over one of their old tractors to help complete the pioneer era mood. Visitors got a little chuckle when they saw the sign on the back which read, “I’m not leaking oil, I’m marking territory.”

      Booths were set up around the sinkhole and parking areas with artists and crafters selling craft items and some fine art. Wooden turned bowls, mugs, cutting boards and pens were displayed in one booth. Another had handmade soaps. Decorative signs, homemade jams and jellies, outdoor wood furniture, sand art, water beads and jewelry were among some of the items available for purchase.

      “We also had 14 business expo vendors this year,” explained one festival volunteer. Community not-for-profit organizations churches and retail businesses were on hand to answer questions and discuss their businesses with interested visitors.

      Pioneer Days wouldn’t be complete with out a visit from the much-appreciated pioneer cowboy re-enactment group, Not So Young Cowboys. They came dressed to the hilt in cowboy regalia, complete with silver-handled pistols, and re-enacted shoot-outs between the bad guys and the good guys four times daily to the delight of children and their parents.

      Big Red from K-Country kept things lively with a K-Country remote and couldn’t resist participating in the shoot outs along with the re-enactors.

      Music in the Park Series proudly served as the music host for the 37th Annual Pioneer Days Event and was sponsored by Hardees of High Springs. Twelve different musical groups were on hand to entertain during the two-day event. Michael Loveday, Music in the Park organizer, explained that a different group performed every hour.

      Visitors enjoyed Kettle Korn, corn on the cob, hot dogs and hamburgers, slushies, barbecue, pulled pork and chicken, fried pickles, corn dogs and funnel cakes as they visited booths, Kids Korral and Heritage Village. Some clubs and organizations sold food to raise money for their own or another organization. The Elks Club donated proceeds from the sale of their barbecue to High Springs Community School’s Music Department and the sale of corn on the cob to the Save the Priest effort. Kiwanis Club members plan to use the proceeds of their sales to do more projects in the community.

      The Priest Theatre participated in the event by holding free tours of the theater and offering free showings of the western classic, “Winchester 73,” starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters. Donations were accepted and went toward the Save the Priest campaign.

      “We couldn’t have ordered up a more perfect weekend for a festival,” said one festival goer. “This has been the best attendance I have seen at this festival for the past five years that I have been coming to Pioneer Days,” said one veteran festival visitor. “Attendance was steady to downright crazy busy, exclaimed one of the festival organizers. “Saturday afternoon was especially busy,” she said.

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