Photo by Beth Carson

“Ya know, in the twenty-five, thirty years we’ve been doing this, the parade’s only been rained out one time,” says Jerry Doyle, Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority of Villa Rica. “But we always get by with it.”

Rain was definitely on the minds of the organizers of this year’s Villa Rica Gold Rush Festival and Battle of the Bands, held last Saturday, September 8 in Downtown Villa Rica. But for the most part, the weather cooperated.

Following the scent of hickory-smoked BBQ, some four thousand people made their way downtown to visit vendor tents from local businesses and organizations like the West Georgia Gymnastic Center, Carroll County Training Center Art Club and Tanner Medical Center, as well as booths from various churches and local artisans. Kids were treated to train rides, bounce houses and a petting zoo, and everywhere you looked someone was holding cotton candy, a cup of Italian Ice or a bag of freshly popped kettle corn. It was typical family fare complete with painted faces and bare feet on the amphitheater lawn.

Down by the Mill Amphitheater, the Pine Mountain Gold Museum set up shop to educate festival-goers about the lush mining history of the area. Attendees paid a small fee and got the chance to strike it rich, mining for their own gold.

Guests of the festival were also treated to a vivid oral history by John Bailey, volunteer for the museum, decked out in authentic native garb. In between bites of locally smoked BBQ, Bailey offered up his expertise in knapping – the art of working materials like flint, obsidian, or chert into dart tips, arrowheads, spearheads, or in Bailey’s case, alabaster and sandstone finger pipes and slate gorgets. “They’d take a large piece of this flint here or whatever rock they had available, free form, and use a billet to take the thick off,” explained. He then proceeded to demonstrate, with a deftness indicative of his fifteen years of experience to quickly chip away seemingly arbitrary pieces of flint until they begin to resemble the common arrowhead. Within minutes he’d crafted a sharp, useable weapon.

When asked about the purpose of the clothes, he said, “Everything they wore had a purpose. They’d store food in their hats. And this,” pointing to a tassled belt woven at his waist, “this was to protect their skin from being dug into by the weapons they carried.”

“So they wasted nothing?”

“Oh, no. When you’re carrying your whole life with you, you can’t afford to.”

A few hours later, after Bailey and the Gold Museum had packed up, night fell. People piled onto the amphitheater lawn with chairs and blankets as Lard Bucket, Americana Express and Grass Backardz prepared to fiddle it out in the Gold Rush Festival Battle of the Bands.

The all-day event held to help the city of Viila Rica raise money for downtown development projects ended with Americana Express claiming the Battle of the Bands victory.

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