Pioneer Festival returns draws many for 42nd edition

Published 2:02 pm Monday, September 6, 2021

After a one-year COVID-induced hiatus, the Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival returned for its 42nd edition over Labor Day weekend.

The two-day event took place Sept. 4 and 5. It featured vendors and food stalls, a 5K race, a talent show, a community church service, and a street dance with music courtesy of The Torques.

It also brought back droves of people back to downtown Winchester.

“The crowd is starting to build,” said Mayor Ed Burtner late Saturday morning as he surveyed the masses.

Burtner said that people were disappointed with last year’s cancellation, but were understanding.

Having people back in the downtown area was Burtner’s favorite part of the festival.

“It’s good to just see people out. That’s the best part for me, honestly,” he said.

People attending the festival came from all over Kentucky and had different reasons for being there.

The Sun spoke to many of them and in the process discovered the diversity of what such celebrations can do for different people.

Running Buddies

Wake up, run a 5K and make a new friend.

That’s how Winchester resident Susan Keefer began her day on Saturday with the GRC Daniel Boone 5K.

“I literally just met her,” Keefer said about her mysterious new friend, whose name she did not know. “We met in line … That’s runners, that’s what runners do. I paced with her and we ran together, and encouraged each other.”

Keefer’s running buddy is Tiffany Smith, also from Winchester, and the 5K was her first.

“I love the atmosphere,” Smith said about the experience. “Everybody is so encouraging and friendly, and it makes getting out and exercising so much easier.”

Smith said she loved the course because of its hills and that it reminded her of a cross country course.

Keefer first ran the 5K in 2015 and also said that it is one of her favorites. It also marked her return to racing.

“I haven’t been running a lot lately because I injured my back,” she said. “I just started again this past year in January.”

A fresh start and a new friend are definitely excellent ways to start the day.

The Volunteer

In 27 years of helping ground operations at the festival, Lewis Davis has done a little bit of everything.

“I’ve done everything from parking cars to doing crowd control to doing security behind the stage,” Davis said. He’s also helped set up lighting and sound equipment for the concert.

Davis grew up in Winchester and now resides in Stanton. He said he sees volunteering every year “as a way to give back to the community.”

Helping out at the festival is a family tradition.

“My dad has been doing this since 1986 when B.B. King was down here,” Davis said. Sadly he did not get to see the blues legend perform.

This year Davis was in charge of keeping the parking spaces behind the Clark County Courthouse clear.

“We’ve got musicians coming in, and essentially all I’m doing is trying to keep the parking open for the musicians that are going to be performing later on today.”

Who knows what Davis will do next year but is because of people like him that the events keep running smoothly after four decades.

The Vendor

For some craft vendors the festival is old hat, but for Heather Phelps, it was one of her first.

“I handmade items from jewelry to farm style home decor, fall decor, macrame walking canes, key chains [and] plant hangars,” Phelps said about her booth’s offerings.

Macrame is an ancient style of crafting various items using knots.

Phelps has been at it for six months and got a booth at the festival to get her name out in the community.

“Research, learning and a lot of YouTube,” Phelps said with a laugh about her creative process. “Pretty much I get an idea in my head and it is a lot of trial and error. My large pieces can take up to four hours to make.”

She decided to take up the art once her two children moved out of the house.

“I’ve become an empty nester! My son took off for the Army and my daughter turned 18 and she took off. They both spread their wings so I had to find something to occupy my time,” Phelps said.

For more information about Phelps’ offerings visit her Facebook page, Miss Mollie Knots.

The Saxophonist

Stop on the sidewalk for a moment and David Combs just might serenade you with the gospel classic, “Precious Memories.”

Combs set up shop with his saxophone on Saturday and performed it and other church classics for passers-by. He also threw in some oldies for good measure.

“I hope I can lift up somebody’s spirits for just a little bit and help them forget the problems they have, and just make them a better day,” Combs said.

He started playing in high school and picked his instrument up again ten years ago. Since then he likes “to play where anybody will listen” all over Central Kentucky.

“I play a lot of music in different areas,” Combs said. “I play Walmart and I play Kroger in Richmond, Lexington and Paris.”

Time is short, Combs mused. He said he thinks there is a chance “some regulations are coming down the pike” that will stop events like the festival. Until then he will keep playing, especially in beautiful Kentucky downtowns.

“All of these little country downtowns are special if you start looking at history and that type stuff, but some towns are doing a better job of making these things work,” Combs said.

And yes he thinks that Winchester is one of those towns.

The Art Show

Take a stroll past the different festival booths and you will find plenty of organizations wanting to tell you about their cause. The Democrat, Libertarian and Republican parties were there to do so, but other organizations, like Achieving Recovery Together, wanted to show you.

The Winchester-based non-profit, which focuses on supporting the local recovering addicts community, invited festival-goers into its South Main Street headquarters for its Treasured ART Show, the first of its four events celebrating National Recovery Month.

“I think just so that people in recovery could express their new light, the changes in their life or just what recovery meant to them,” Juanita Everman, one of the organization’s co-founders, said about the importance of the show.

The show’s name is rooted in celebrating the joy of recovery.

“It is a treasure to come into the new light,” Everman said. “It’s a treasure to be able to have a relationship with your family again. You gain a lot of treasure in recovery.”

The show, now in its third year, also serves as a fundraiser for the organization. Individuals were invited to bid on donated artwork and “vote with their dollars” for their favorite piece in the contest.

The real importance of the show was inviting the community in to see what the organization does.

“What happens when you bring in a different population to an event is that they are seeing that people can recover too. So it helps with the stigma,” said Amber Fields-Hull, the organization’s other co-founder.