Young faces enthralled by Old Butler Days
By Jonathan PleasantIn true form, this year’s Old Butler Days Festival was a break from the fast paced life of the modern world, giving hundreds of people from around the county and region the chance to catch up with old acquaintances, spend time with their families, and be a part of a tradition decades in the making. Celebrating the history and heritage of the town and valley that was flooded by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1948, the festival provided plenty of excitement and entertainment while maintaining the small town charm that has persisted in the Butler Community well beyond the building of Watauga Dam.
Whether eight months or 80 years old, Old Butler Days featured something for everyone. Dozens of small children wandered through the vendors’ booths getting their faces painted, jumping in the moon walk, playing games, and riding the Old Butler Days Train while parents and grandparents alike gathered around to catch up on old times, listen to some of Johnson County’s finest performers take the stage, and try some excellent food.
In fact, so many people came to watch the show and grab something to eat that festival organizers found it difficult to keep up with demand. Besides the usual cheeseburger and fries, the menu included BBQ sandwiches, BBQ dinners with slaw and beans, chili cheese dogs, ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes, and the local favorite, grilled corn on the cob.
A wide variety of vendors set up in the park grounds, displaying everything from ATVs to jewelry to handmade crafts and statuary. The Johnson County Humane Society was also on hand to offer microchip services which can be instrumental in finding and identifying lost pets. The Butler Fire Department sponsored several activities including a maze, dart throwing game, and inflatable moonwalk.
Testing out some of the new sound equipment including new wireless headsets, announcer Terry Potter introduced the various bands along with local entertainer and radio DJ Billy Gambill. The lineup included several genres of music including blue grass, Christian rock, 50s pop, line dancing, country, and even a performance by “Elvis.”
The live events kicked off Friday at 3 p.m. with Kevin McCloud, Logan Vincent, and Dalton Slemp each taking a turn to show off their talent. The Dandy Lines out of Johnson City were next to perform, only to be followed by the Dennis Cove Band. Of course the big act Friday evening was an appearance by the Blue Suede Soul Band and Andy Woodall, reprising his hit role as Elvis.
Things picked up even more on Saturday, beginning with a solemn veterans’ salute featuring members of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group who recently placed a ceremonial chair honoring the United States soldiers who are missing in action. Members of the Butler Boy Scouts Troop were also present to help conduct the ceremony, retiring the tattered American Flag at the memorial and replacing it with a new one.
Saturday also saw an excellent performance of “River Rising,” conducted by students from the Johnson County High School Drama Club. Written about Old Butler, the play details some of the town’s history and also relates some of the special stories that have made its memory so dear to the people that were born and raised there. Fortunately for those wanting to know more about the town, the Butler Museum was also open the entire weekend, with tours detailing the various exhibits and artifacts. The Old W.S. Stout Store, an original Old Butler business which was relocated to the Pine Orchard Community and then moved again to the grounds of Babe Curtis Park, was also open for tours.
There was plenty of other action at the festival this year as well, with a successful motorcycle poker run Saturday morning and an exciting, although short-lived, hot air balloon ride Saturday evening. Between acts there were also many door prizes given out and a daily 50/50 drawing. The biggest prizes to be given away were drawn on Saturday evening in the highly anticipated annual raffle. Prizes included his and her matching pistols, a Tennessee Vols grill, and a Stihl chainsaw among others.
Following the end of the evening activities, the whole weekend wrapped up with a touching and memorable Watauga Academy Alumni Reunion Sunday morning, featuring students and teachers going all the way back to the class of 1938. Proclaiming a theme of friends and fellowship forever, guest speaker Dan Stansberry’s message provided a fitting end to another successful Old Butler celebration.
Sponsored by the Butler Ruritan Club, a civic organization dedicated to helping and improving the community, Old Butler Day’s is the organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, while at the same time providing a chance to bring the community together. Money generated by the festival goes directly back to the community through projects sponsored by the Ruritan throughout the year. Likewise the Museum and Watauga Alumni Association use the proceeds from donations to keep the museum in operation and help preserve the history of the town.
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