Hillbilly Daze: From burgoo to Mary Kay
For Rick Caudle, Hillbilly Daze always begins a day early and includes an all-nighter near Glenn's Creek across from the Millville Community Center. "There were a few points there where you're like, 'Why am I here? I want to go over there and jump in the creek and just float away,'" Caudle said with a laugh. Once every couple of hours, Caudle gets a bit of excitement: a car passes on the rural stretch of McCracken Pike near Franklin County. This year, the esteemed chef once again resisted the urge for a wake-up dunk in order to watch his increasingly famous burgoo like a new parent watches a fussy baby. Caudle started cooking at 4 p.m. on Hillbilly Daze Eve, when he began to boil 30 pounds of beef, pork and chicken in an ancient kettle over a wood-fired blaze. Five hours later, he added the vegetables, stirring the pot frequently with an old wooden paddle to keep the vegetables from settling in the bottom and burning. The wood was replaced with propane in order to keep the heat and smoke down. By 8:30 a.m. Saturday, with the 36th annual Hillbilly Daze underway, Caudle, 66, said his second wind was kicking in. His burgoo wouldn't be ready until 11 a.m., though at least one fan persuaded Caudle to give him an early taste. Three children walked over to watch Caudle work. Lauren Wingate, 16, said she was there for two reasons: to help an aunt sell food for Millville Christian Church and eat Caudle's burgoo. Wingate and younger friends Sydney Stanfield and Nathan Mefford said they'd also try another attraction: two free bouncy houses across the road. "I'm not too old for the bouncy house," said Wingate, laughing, adding that she was also a fan of the silent auction. Sales at the silent auction and booth fees help pay for the upkeep of the Millville Community Center, where many of the vendors showed their wares.
Kaye Nita Gallagher, a Midway city council member, was making kettle corn and root beer at her third consecutive Hillbilly Daze. Neither she nor "Two Ladies and a Kettle" partner Courtney Neikirk would reveal the secrets of their root beer, made on site. "Ancient Chinese secret," said Neikirk. "We steep it all day long," Gallagher added. On the community center side of McCracken Pike, one of the founders of Hillbilly Daze prepared to resume an annual ritual: videotaping the tractor show and parade. Jake Jacobs, 87, said he wasn't sure how many years he'd shot the parade, the tapes of which he'd transferred to DVD. "I've got a lot of DVDs of it," Jacobs said. Aside from his duties as video chronicler of Hillbilly Daze, Jacobs said he had another reason for coming: "More or less, to see people. To see people you haven't seen for awhile." Buddy Phil Long said of Jacobs, "He's Mr. Hillbilly Daze." Asked what he thought of that nickname, Jacobs responded, "I've been called so many things it doesn't make any difference." Long grew up in Millville, but said he never got to watch the parade until last year, because as a member of the Woodford County Fire Department, he was busy riding in it.
The parade began a few minutes after 10 a.m., and, unlike those in some years, was viewed under clear skies. Jacobs said one year, the rain was so heavy that everything was moved inside the community center except for the then-annual volleyball tournament. "We were the muddiest mess. It rained so hard while we were playing - I was wearing glasses at the time, I had to just throw the glasses off to the side. I couldn't even see," Jacobs said. "That's the festival that kind of stands out in your mind - you remember that one." Inside the community center, Holly Brown and her mother, Erma Anderson, operated what would seem to be an unusual booth at any festival that includes the word "hillbilly" - a mini-Mary Kay shop. "Hillbillies like to look good, too," Anderson said with a laugh. "We enjoy the people. There's some lovely people out here in Millville." They registered women for a $100 gift basket and Brown added freckles to the face of a young girl named Emma Grace who was selling lemonade in the parking lot. If asked, they said, they'd be happy to offer a free touch-up for contestants in the Best-Dressed Hillbilly contest. "They would be the prettiest hillbilly around," Brown said.