MILLVILLE – This tiny western Woodford County community, just across the Franklin County line, is just one of those many burgs nestled along the back roads of our great state that veritably screams, “FESTIVAL!”
Houses, some churches and a couple of businesses are neatly distributed along a meandering creek. Shaded by verdant hills that rise above it, the place beckons one to draw up a chair and tarry awhile. Even if it’s not so for those who call it home, it just seems like life should move at a slower pace there, a “Ya’ll come back” speed.
This coming Saturday that’s exactly what the good folks of the Millville Community Organization are wanting us to do. The annual Millville Hillbilly Daze Festival, starting around 8 a.m. and continuing until folks start drifting home around 6 or so, will be held in and around the Millville Community Center just around the bend heading Versailles way.
“The festival has been moved this year from the third Saturday in September to the second,” said John Watts, president of the MCO and head honcho of the event. “We just found we were competing with too many events in Woodford County, including a gigantic festival in Midway that was really drawing people.”
Originally started by the now defunct Millville Sportsman Club, Hillbilly Daze is what Jake Jacobs, longtime head man of the event, was fond of calling the “granddaddy of all the community festivals.” Having started more than 30 years ago, Hillbilly Daze was always on the third Saturday, but as Watts says, declining participation by vendors and attendance forced a change.
The transition to a “community organization” also helped the MCO become a bona fide non-profit, and as such it can get more help and support from businesses and government.
“These little festivals are calling it quits everywhere,” Watts said. “Some of us looked around and thought we want ours to continue, see what changes can we make to keep it going.”
The first was to move the date, and immediately two “regulars” at the Midway event who weren’t able to come before signed on: Tim Williams, manager of the Audubon Society’s popular Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary in the ‘burbs just out of Millville, and Seldom Scene Farm that will bring alpacas and llamas.
The next was a look at what was working and wasn’t. Gone this year is the free bean soup at 4 p.m. “The idea was to give those who’d been working hard and those visiting all day a little treat. But what we were seeing was people rolling in to get free bean soup who hadn’t been there all day.”
Burgoo Master Rick Caudle will still be cookin’ his award-winning burgoo and Wholly Smokers BBQ will be offering their fare. There’s been an effort to get more artists and craftsmen to set up while the flea market continues.
Watts said they were seeing fewer and fewer participate in the flea market, too.
“Those who’d like to set up a table,” Watts said, “just need to show up around 7:30 or 8 with their $15. We’ll find ‘em a place.”
Also this year, vendors will set up inside the Community Center, formerly the Millville Elementary School.
“It’s a great facility and we want to utilize it every way we can,” Watts said.
Horseshoe pitching has always been popular in Millville, its league once the pride of the state. But the passage of time has taken its toll on the ‘shoe tossers so the tourney held at the Festival has been replaced with the now widely-popular cornhole that’s not quite as demanding physically.
“If someone wants to pitch,” Watts said, “they can bring their shoes and pitch all they want. There’s just no tournament.”
Also gone is the volleyball tournament.
Of course there’ll be continuous music from 11-5 primarily featuring groups from Franklin County, face painting, representatives from the Franklin County Humane Society with a portable adoption station, and more.
As always, the event begins with a motorcade parade leaving the Millville Christian Church parking lot around 9:30 with lineup at 9.
“This is just a community thing,” Watts said. “The MCO isn’t officially sponsoring it for liability reasons. If folks want to line up and drive on the road from the church to the center then that’s fine. It’s a state road, we’ll stand and watch.”
Watts says he knows change doesn’t always come easy but he and other folks in the community felt it necessary if the festival was going to continue.
“My wife (Velda) and I chose to make Millville our home and raise our family here,” he said. “Our house is a half mile from the Community Center on the farm where I grew up. I went to elementary school there. This has been a great thing, the festival, for our community forever now. We want to see it continue for a long time to come.”
DIRECTIONS: From Frankfort, take US 60 (Versailles Road) toward Versailles, go under the I-64 bridges and turn right at the light for Cracker Barrel. Follow that road as it winds into the country and down a long hill. Turn left at the bottom of the hill and just keep going as you pass the Christian Church on the left and then the Baptist Church on up the road. Go around the bend and less than a mile down the road is where the action will be.
Head on out and spend the day Saturday. Millville is a place made for a Festival!