Stately ?Autumn Oaks' festival planned

By Ed Brock

Autumn leaves around Stately Oaks in Jonesboro will dance to the sound of fiddle music this weekend.

The "Fiddle Rally" will be part of Saturday and Sunday's "Autumn Oaks Festival" at the antebellum mansion off Jodeco Road, but that's just the beginning. There will be a quilt exhibit, an arts and crafts show and an old-fashioned carnival midway.

And there will be cake, too. Birthday cake to be more precise.

"Stately Oaks is 165 years old this year and I think she looks pretty good for her age," said Judi Peterson, one of the festival's organizers.

The festival was previously known as the Fall Festival, but that changed last year, Peterson said. Another change is that the festival is no longer held in conjunction with the reenactment of the Battle of Jonesboro as it was in previous years.

Peterson said the battle reenactment was moved to August in order to be closer to the date in which the real battle was fought. Now the festival will stand on its own, and Peterson said they would have a lot going on.

This will be the first year for the fiddle competition, said Denis Byrd, organizer of that event, and he expects about 10 or 15 fiddlers to enter the competition.

Byrd, who lives in Morrow, played the violin for around six years and some time after high school he took up fiddle playing.

"The only difference is attitude," Byrd said. "It's the same instrument. It's just a matter of how you play it."

Fiddle music is dance music while violin is orchestral. The former has been part of American history since the nation's birth.

"You can still hear traditional tunes from Ireland and Scotland played (on the fiddle)," Byrd said. "They've evolved from being in America for the past 250 years."

Fiddlers interested in competing can show up the day of the contest, but they will have to pay the gate fee for the festival as well as the $10 entry fee for the competition.

In the open competition to be held Saturday at 2 p.m. the prizes will be $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place, and each winner gets a trophy. In the juniors' competition for fiddlers under 16 years old that will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday and for the novice competition (fiddlers with one to two years experience) to be held at 2 p.m. Sunday the first, second and third place winners will receive trophies only.

And for those who have no luck with their fiddling skills, there's always the midway.

"We've decided first of all that the festival should be a version of a turn-of-the-century fair," said Abb Dickson, the midway's organizer.

And no good fair would be complete without a midway full of games, Dickson said, and he will have plenty of games.

"There's nothing modern about them, but they should be exciting," Dickson said. "Everybody's guaranteed to win a prize every time."

Along with the classic games and prizes, Dickson, a member of Jonesboro Historic Society and owner of Pope-Dickson Funeral Home, said he would have some classic P.T. Barnum-style exhibits, such as the "275-pound man-eating chicken" and the "5?-foot bat."

Right next door to Stately Oaks at the Jonesboro Recreation Center the Clayton Arts Alliance Inc. will hold its Autumn Oaks Art Exhibit from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. Artists from different counties will have exhibits and prizes will be awarded at a reception Sunday for first, second and third place in six categories.

Admission to the Autumn Oaks festival will be $3 for adults and $2 for children 5-11, Peterson said. Children under 5 are free. Festival-goers are asked to park at the Historic Clayton County Courthouse in Jonesboro on McDonough Street and shuttle service will be available there.

There are still openings for vendors for the arts and crafts show. Interested parties should call Jo Lynne McEwen at (770) 471-1727 or Stately Oaks at (770) 473-0197.