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
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).
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.