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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Preparing cane to make molasses, 1976
Preparing cane to make molasses, October 1976 Photo: Raymond Morris

Hancock County Fall Festival

Celebrating its 24th year in 2000, this festival had its roots in the outdoor drama, Walk Toward the Sunset, which attempted to document the history of the Melugeons, a small distinctive group of people living in Hancock County whose origins have always been a mystery. Recently DNA/genetics research has tied the Melungeon population to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern peoples: Portuguese, Turks, and Jews. When financial difficulties forced the closing of the drama, the directors wanted to continue a means to attract tourists to the area and broaden its economic base. In 1977, the Board of Directors of the Hancock Drama Association met to make plans for the first festival, which was held October 14-16 of that year. The festival is still held annually at the Farmer's Market in Sneedville on the first weekend of October.

This event, as well as showcasing the area's beautiful fall foliage, celebrates Hancock County's cultural heritage by demonstrating and displaying various traditional crafts and skills. Among these are the making of molasses, hominy, apple butter, lye soap, cane chair seats, wood shingles, spinning and carding wool, cording cotton, cornshuck dolls and quilts. Performances by local bluegrass, country and gospel music groups are featured. Early years of the festival were highlighted with a guided tour in which visitors could meet the area's Melungeons, and the Melungeon theme still finds its way into the activities. The event attracts hundreds of tourists to the county, with a special emphasis on former residents of Sneedville/Hancock County. Like its predecessor, Walk Toward the Sunset, the festival is produced entirely by local volunteers.

Project documentation includes a five-page report on the history of the festival, an update on the history of the Melungeons, flyers, a history of the Sneedville/Hancock Community Partners, who run the Festival, a history of Hancock County, and 29 8 x 10 photographs with their descriptions.

Originally submitted by: William L. Jenkins, Representative, (1st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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