Hillbilly Daze festival has slow start, big finish
With only a few parade participants, Saturday's 37th annual Hillbilly Daze began slowly, but within hours, 150 or so festival goers were cake-walking, float-bouncing and lining up for burgoo. This year, longtime Millville resident David Penn led the parade in his tractor decorated like a chicken house, complete with two roosters and sound-effects crowing from a small speaker. "Seems like it's getting a little smaller every year," Penn said. "People used to participate, but a lot of them are gone and a lot of them doing other things. But still, I think we'll have a pretty good crowd, looks like." An hour or so after the 10 a.m. parade, Penn was proven right. By noon, residents of the tiny town, relatives who'd moved away and curious newcomers were strolling around the parking lot of the Millville Community Center and in the park across McCracken Pike.
One of those was second-grader Bella Grimes, whose parents Greg and Michelle had purchased the young reader a book called "Horses and Ponies," which Bella chose to read before exploring the bouncy houses. "It's mostly about horses," she explained. A few minutes later, the Capital Steppers, a group of line dancers from the Franklin County Senior Citizens Center, entertained the growing crowd. Across the street, Rick Caudle was serving stew he'd been cooking since late afternoon the day before to a long line of hungry people. A sign on the front of Caudle's tent read "Conway's Burgoo," a nod to Jim Conway, a Hillbilly Daze founder who passed away in 2000, but whose spirit - and burgoo recipe - was alive and well Saturday. "He's the one who taught me to cook it, and it's his burgoo. They can call it Washgoo (a nod to the Wash family), Caudlegoo, Millvillegoo and Conwaygoo. If they ask me, that's what it is," said Caudle. Asked how this year's edition tasted, Caudle said he hadn't had time to try it yet. "It's time for it to be served," he said. As he's done every year since acquiring a video camera, 88-year-old Jake Jacobs, the unofficial historian of Millville and the town's "mayor," recorded the festivities, pausing to take part in the cakewalk near the entrance of the community center.
This year's Hillbilly Daze, the proceeds of which pay for upkeep on the community center, had plenty of competition, from UK's football home opener to several other, larger area festivals. Greg Grimes was one of those who made time for more than one event. Hillbilly Daze, he said, had something for every member of his family - even the little girl reading a book mostly about horses. "Well, she likes finding little books she can read and I like looking at the old cars and tractors and the little ones like playing on the blow-ups over there," Grimes said. He said they planned on getting something to eat before driving to Georgetown for that city's Festival of the Horse." Well before the live music began playing at 1 p.m., David Penn had been joined by more than a hundred people, including several, like himself, clad in overalls. "Just a good thing for people to get together and stuff, like a family reunion," Penn said. "A lot of people come, gives them a chance to meet with old friends and stuff. People they haven't seen in a while."