STORY AND PHOTOS BY PAM GUENTHER
When it’s time to reap the harvest, the sweet sorghum harvest that is, the volunteer Blairsville Syrup Makers know how it’s done!
That’s because they have been making the sorghum syrup for the past 53 years, and it is no easy task.
Making sorghum, or sweet cane syrup as it is also referred to, begins months in advance by planting the seeds of the cane plant after the last plants have died.
The harvest time is also critical as to the sweetness of the syrup and must be done at the exact right time.
From there the cane is stripped and crushed and then worked in a huge pan until it is fired and then worked more for hours as it reaches a boiling point.
Once cooled and evaporated it is dispensed into the jars where it is sealed and then can be sold.
It takes about 10 gallons of the cane juice to produce one gallon of the sorghum syrup!
Each year thousands of people attend the Sorghum Festival which originally began at the Blairsville Square at the center of town but is now held at Meeks Park.
It started out as a fund-raising event and also to preserve the mountain heritage. Now volunteers produce hundreds of gallons of the cane syrup, and you can even watch how it is done at the festival as well as purchase as much as you like!
In addition to the sorghum making there is also lots of other things to do at the four-day event which is always held the second and third weekends in October.
Lots of activities for kids such as face painting, rides, sack races and sorghum festival games and as always kids 12 and under are free.
Visitors could browse and shop plenty of beautiful arts and crafts and take a look at many informational booths on associations like the Civil Air Patrol, Project Chimps, Confederate Union Club and many more.
I also enjoyed watching all the very talented dogs very much performing from the Action Dogs Troupe as they jumped hoops and scrambled around the various agility courses.
As I arrived, I also caught a bit of the log sawing activities that the audience could participate in.
As for musical entertainment, on the day that I attended there were several local bands such as the Lighthouse Ministries and the Mountain Breeze Band to enjoy.
I was also a bit sorry that I missed a couple of the usual contests such as the Biscuit Eating Contest which I am sure would have been a hoot!
It was a beautiful day at Meeks Park where the festival has been held since 2008. The festival has grown tremendously since its early years and also undergone a couple of changes. In 2021 the Blairsville Sorghum Syrup Makers partnered with the organization, the Enotah CASA for Children, to help continue the traditional Sorghum Makers plight and take on the many traditions and organization of the festival.
Enotah CASA is a non-profit organization for children which raises funds for assistance through the legal systems with guardian ad litems programs.
The entry fee this year was just $5 for adults, and of course kids 12 and under were free.
It was really a great day to spend at the festival and at the park with all its beautiful trails and waterways to view.
I would highly recommend this as a perfect way to spend the day and enjoy all the beauty of Meeks Park, located along Highway 515 in Blairsville and the site of many different events throughout the year.