Rob Thurston calls for All Aboard! as he operates the tram from the parking fields in the front of Dauset Trails to the center of activities for the 10th Annual Bluebirds & Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, April 3. Photos by Diane Glidewell
For the tenth year, the Dauset Trails Nature Center on Mt. Vernon Church Road in southern Butts County welcomed thousands of folks to its usually peaceful woods to enjoy the beautiful Saturday before Easter. Families, church groups, friends, and clubs came to enjoy the excellent Bluegrass bands, the glorious spring blooms, the informative booths and demonstrations, and the always interesting native animals.
The staff of Dauset Trails and volunteers hid 16,000 candy eggs for the children to hunt. At least 300 children divided into age divisions of 0-5 and 6-10 had assaulted the egg fields and gleaned all of the bounty from them within 10 minutes of the 11 a.m. starting time.
Members of the Luella High School JROTC and the Butts County Sheriff's Office again assisted visitors with parking the many hundreds of cars which steadily flowed into and out of the expansive fields in front of Dauset Trails. Trams from Ridgeway Christmas Tree Farms carried visitors from the parking field to the Festival if they wished, but most preferred the pleasant walk along the shady paths and bridges.
Packway Handle Band of Athens was again a toe-tapping favorite with the crowds. Packway Handle performed at 11 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Other groups enjoyed by the music lovers included the Corduroy Road, Grassline, and the duo of Staber and Chasnoff.
As the sounds of good bluegrass music filled the air so did the scents of barbecue offered by Boy Scout Troop 161 of Jackson, of boiled peanuts, of fresh strawberries from Deb-Deb's local fields, and of baked goods sold by Towaliga Baptist Church women and various other local groups. Many festival-goers brought their own picnics to enjoy on the tables provided or to spread on tablecloths under the pines.
Inside the Dauset Trails Visitors Center Atrium, the Towaliga Toe-Tappers offered a Dulcimer Workshop from 1-3 p.m. with about a dozen members of the group playing old time songs, hymns, gospel songs, and bluegrass favorites of the Mountain Dulcimer and complimentary instruments. The group meets the third Sunday of each month at Towaliga Baptist Church.
Along the paths from the Visitors Center to the main pavilion and from the pavilion to the farm buildings, 34 exhibitors set up tables and tents. The Flint River Astronomy Club set up telescopes and offered special dark glasses for observing the bright sun shining on the Bluebirds & Bluegrass Festival. "God was nice enough to make these amazing things; we'll show the sky to people who want to learn or are interested," said Bill Warren, president of the Griffin-based group.
Representatives of the Macon Museum of Arts & Sciences had a ferret and snakes to exhibit and provided interesting information such as that most poison snake bites in middle Georgia are by copperheads. A display of how difficult copperheads are to see in Georgia pinestraw explained why this is so.
Sarah Clark of Southeastern Reptile Rescue exhibited a very easy to see cream-colored almost 12 foot, 85 pound boa a few hundred yards away. The female boa stretched out to her full length and seemed totally comfortable with children and adults rubbing her smooth sides. "Googles" was rescued from a roadside in Spalding County and is estimated to be eight or nine years old. She eats three or four jumbo rabbits every few weeks. She will continue to grow bigger throughout her life.
"We have 100 snakes, eight alligators, and 11 turtles, and almost 90 percent of them have been rescued," explained Clark.
Other exhibitors showed how to spin wool into yarn, what a blacksmith does, how a beekeeper works with his hive, and what is available through other Nature Preserves and groups in middle Georgia. There were exhibitors with native plants for sale, exhibitors offering unique handmade birdhouses, clowns with games and balloons, Girl Scouts with cookies, and a rock climbing wall.
Observation of the car tags in the parking lot showed visitors came from Baldwin, Coweta, Jones, Pike, Jasper, Newton, Houston, Putnam, Bleckley, Henry, Spalding, and Monroe Counties--and that represents the cars on only one row! There were also a couple of cars from Michigan and Texas. Apparently news of the good things going on at Dauset Trails and the Bluebirds & Bluegrass Festival has been reaching people far beyond Butts County and bringing them here to enjoy some of our treasures.