Festival Brings Vinton County Together

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Chris Higbee performs atop a vendor's roof as his band accompanies during opening night of the 30th annual Wild Turkey Festival (photo: Tyler Buchanan/Vinton County Courier)

The Wild Turkey Festival, like most others, is a beacon of sensory overload.

The sights of children running to and from rides abound. The flashing lights of food vendors lined Route 50 as a young kid walks around clutching a giant turkey leg for dinner.

The sounds from the stage filled the festival with music, with drums rattling away and songs carrying all the way down the street.

And ah, the smells. That's maybe the best of all, mostly because The Courier's festival booth was placed right next door to the kettle corn stand.

Roaming the festival on Friday, I knew I wanted to run the Turkey Trot 5K race the following morning. I wanted to try to stay clear, at least for one night, from all the bad and delicious food.

But of course, there were steak burgers and kettle corn samples and chicken finger baskets. I could not resist. Is life ever so simple?

The Wild Turkey Festival, like most others, is a never ending crowd walking up and down the midway. Vendors filled out the edges of the festival selling their wares; here a man sold leather belts, there a table is packed with decorative belt buckles and sunglasses.

I walked past a man holding darts in outstretched hands, hawking throws to chuck at balloons. Briefly considering taking a shot, I was then struck by the memory of "playing" darts as a kid when most of my throws barely clipped the dartboard at all. I kept walking.

"C'mon photographer, try it!" called out a woman peddling softball throws at milk jugs.

"Nah, I'd lose," I told her.

"Yeah, but at least you'd get to try!"

It's not an exaggeration to say that you could hear the music everywhere. All those walking the midway got their share of country and rock, and everyone seemed happy. There was headbobbing all throughout McArthur, and the whole festival seemed a willing audience.

The Wild Turkey Festival, like most others, is meant to be the gatekeeper to summertime. Never before in the festival's 30 year history was it more true than this year.

After a winter for the ages, kids ran around in shorts and girls trekked through in flip flops. It was not even that warm, but who cares?

When the sun went down and country music star Dustin Lynch took the stage, the roar from the crowd was infectious. I do not pretend to be a major country music fan, though I concede his award-winning presence was enough to warrant the loud shrieks of high school girls that carried through most of the show.

What I can attest to is this: Vinton County residents seemed desperate as ever for something to cheer for. It has been a trying time for residents, whose resilience and determination continues to grow with each passing month.

As Lynch performed, the crowd stirred in a seemingly cathartic experience, where togetherness springs eternal, where there still exists reason to cheer and scream.

I am one to believe it matters little what causes these positive feelings, merely we should rejoice in there being reason to feel them at all. Where our communities go without so many tangibles, is there not hope that these feelings can be saved?

The Wild Turkey Festival, like most others, has its share of popular entertainers, delicious food and thrilling rides.

But this festival, unlike all others, brings joy to the hearts of thousands in Vinton County.

That itself is enough to enjoy such a gift.