Music, carnival rides and favorite foods are just a few of the reasons Atlantans will head north next weekend for the Cumming Country Fair and Festival. From Thursday through Oct. 14, the Forsyth County city’s fairgrounds will be awash with crowds taking in the old-fashioned fun, but there’s more to the outing than just a good time. In the fair’s Heritage Village, visitors will learn about and get a glimpse into the area’s past.
“Back in 1995, when we were planning all this, the Cumming mayor and city council not only wanted a fair and festival, but also a little bit more,” explained Dave Horton, a 34-year city employee who has been the director of the 35-acre fair grounds site since 1998. “They saw Forsyth’s rich history, the farms that built this community, going by the wayside and wanted to include some of that in the event.”
The Heritage Village, designed to let locals and visitors explore and, in some cases interact with, the area’s history, quickly became a focal point of the event. The section showcases items that were once used on nearby farms and have been donated by the people who used them. A working saw mill that operated in nearby woods for 40 years is now a centerpiece, along with a sorghum mill, cotton gin, gristmill, one-room school house, blacksmith’s shop, quilters’ hut, general store, doctor’s office, barbershop and dentist’s office.
“We even have little Baptist and Methodist churches and an old chicken house with live chicks,” said Horton. “What we couldn’t salvage, we built, using rough-cut wood from our sawmill. People love it; some are seeing things their grandfathers and great-grandfathers ran, and it reminds some of the older folks about what it was like when we had cotton gins here. And the younger generation is amazed when they see some of these things for the first time.”
The office buildings are decorated with photos of real people who served as doctors and dentists in the community. During the fair, the buildings are staffed by local folks who step into the roles played by people 100 years ago or more.
“We do hire people to run the cotton gin and saw mill because they can be dangerous,” said Horton, “but other things like the farm tractors may be run by the families who donated them. The doctor’s office is staffed by volunteers from Northside Hospital, and the local dentistry folks are in the dentist’s office. We even have a cosmetology class at the high school and some local hair businesses that will actually be cutting hair in the barber shop.”
Having the Heritage Village is one way the fair generates a tremendous amount of local involvement, from families with connections to the old buildings to civic groups and Boy Scout troops that pitch in to handle jobs from parking to selling tickets.
“It’s a long 11 days, but it’s fun,” said Horton. “And having the Heritage Village just reminds us that it’s not just rides and corn dogs.”
Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 404-514-6162.
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