• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

Here’s Johnny!

Hillbillies and Hall of Famers

For this humble scribe, last Saturday began with hillbillies and ended with Hall of Famers.

Let’s begin at the beginning, when the clouds seemed low but spirits high at Saturday’s 38th annual Hillbilly Daze in Millville. (The photos are on page 12.)

Unofficial Millville historian Jake Jacobs was there, as he’s always been, armed with a camera and video recorder to document the festival. Rick Caudle had spent the previous evening cooking his famous Millville burgoo in an old kettle. Other Hillbilly Daze veterans traded stories of previous years. Junior Jacobs recalled the time he brought eight puppies and found homes for all of them, the roller-skate races up McCracken Pike to Woodford Reserve and back to the Millville Community Center, and the well-attended horseshoe tournaments. He pointed to Glenns Creek, on the other side of McCracken Pike from the community center, and said that’s where he’d taught Caudle to swim. Inside the pavilion was a father-and-son team with dozens of guns to sell. Jake Jacobs explained the origin of the festival’s name, which he was pretty sure he came up with.

“I liked the idea of ‘Millville, Hill bill.’ It kind of went together, and then I had to add the ‘Daze’ because of a Hillbilly Days (event) down in the mountains …” Jacobs said.

Asked if the “Daze” portion of the name might also have been inspired by people who’d not gotten enough sleep on Hillbilly Daze Eve, Jacobs laughed, and acknowledged some of the early arrivals were a bit bleary-eyed.

“It’s been a long run,” Jacobs said of the festival, which, this year, was threatened by rain that likely hurt attendance and forced the Capital Steppers, a group of senior cloggers from Frankfort, to cancel. Two of the 25 didn’t get the word and showed up anyway, Jacobs said.

Asked how he and others keep Hillbilly Daze going, with weather concerns, other events and an aging group of natives, Jacobs said he wasn’t quite sure.

“Just somehow, it kind of keeps going. Even on a rainy day, a lot of people are here,” Jacobs said around 11 a.m.

Jacobs said he and the other Hillbilly Daze founders didn’t give much thought about whether the event would last nearly four decades. “I was hoping it would be something that would go on, but it really started from the Bicentennial (in 1976). We had a week-long thing … and then we went a couple of years, when we didn’t have anything, and we just decided, ‘Well, it would be nice to have a parade and a festival again,’” Jacobs said.

He admitted the number of “floats” and other parade participants was down this year. Asked for his hopes for next year’s event, Jacobs, 89, repeated the question, then said with a smile, “Hopes that I’m here next year.”

A very different event took place that night at Woodford County Middle School: the 2018 Woodford Public Schools Hall of Fame induction dinner. (Story and photos are on front page and page 8.) The ceremony was emceed by former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (whose family owns the Sun), the dinner was catered by Sweet Lilu’s, and each of the inductees had impressive resumes.

One of them was particularly important to the eight members of the Sun family in attendance: Moss Vance, who was our managing editor for 37 years.

By the time I arrived in 2014, Vance (Versailles High School, class of ‘46) had been retired for years, but he still came in Wednesday mornings to proofread the paper. He finally retired for good a couple of years ago, and while we were happy he wouldn’t have to trudge up the stairs to the proofing room anymore, we’ve missed his keen eye and kind nature a great deal.

To this day, when I find a mistake after the paper’s published, I think, “I bet Moss would have caught that.”

Vance served his country in the armed forces twice – in Japan, after World War II, then again during the Korean Conflict. Space doesn’t allow me to touch on all his career highlights, so let me summarize by saying that Vance is a good newspaper man who’s made Woodford County a better place in many ways.

And I’m not just saying that because he told me, before dinner was served, that he was proud of what we are doing at the Sun – and that he still turned first to the second page.

Thanks, Moss – and congratulations.

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