50th annual Forkland Festival celebrates history, craft

Published 1:53 pm Monday, October 11, 2021

On Friday, the weather was temperate and the autumn sun shined its golden light on the festivities at the 50th annual Forkland Festival at the Forkland Community Center in Gravel Switch. The area was lined with booths, mums and pumpkins to celebrate fall and the history, businesses and creations of the area.

The noteworthy anniversary of the festival saw both those who have been coming since the festival’s start and those who had only been coming for a couple of years.

Jimmy Lee, who sold jams, jellies and apples at the festival, said he’s been coming to the festival for 50 years now, since he was 5 years old. His father was one of the original members of the festival.

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Sandy Hogue, who ran the Sweet Shop booth along with her niece and best friend, had mannequins set up with the faces of her parents pasted on them to pay homage to her family’s roots in the festival, as well as lots of mums and gourds, and pictures of large crowds at past festivals. Her parents went to school and lived in the area before they died several years ago. Her father built the Sweet Shop booth a few decades ago, and her mother also used to have a craft booth at the festival. Hogue not only runs the Sweet Shop Booth at the festival but also owns Sandy’s Surprises, a sweet shop and catering business in Junction City.

Susan Reynolds helped run the Carrying on Tradition booth, which sold lye soap, dolls fashioned after bean supper servers and other items. Reynolds said her husband’s grandparents had roots in the festival and made lye soap to sell. One of his grandfathers also played the banjo at the festival. So to carry on their traditions, the family, including Reynolds’ daughter, continues to make lye soap and sell it. Reynolds said the only time they make the soap is to sell it at the festival, and they keep and use whatever soap is leftover.

Greg Williams said his wife is the advertising manager of the festival, and he’s been coming since around the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. The family has had a booth at the festival for about 26 years. One of the Williams’ two sons moved out of town, but their other son, Cambron Williams, owner of Forkland Woodworking, still runs the booth, where the family sells handmade old-fashioned toys, like wooden cars and rubber band guns, which Cambron builds.

A more recent addition to the festival is Shooting Star Farm owner Jessica Merrick, who was selling items including candles and soaps. She sells her products at events like farmers markets as well. It was her second time coming to the festival to sell — her first time was in 2018.

Friday was the first day of the festival. The festivities, food and celebration of history continued on Saturday.