Make a pit stop in the picturesque town of Dawsonville in the hills of North Georgia where running moonshine gave birth to modern stock car racing –
Even before the Eighteenth Amendment was passed in 1919, farmers had long known their excess crop yields could bring in some extra money if converted into corn whiskey. But once Prohibition got into full swing, things got interesting, especially in the North Georgia hills.
Dawson County became a hotbed for illegal corn whiskey, better known as moonshine, and was the main supplier for Atlanta during Prohibition. Bootleggers would modify their cars for better speed and handling to evade authorities when delivering their illegal cargo. Eventually these cars were raced for entertainment – and profit – leading to the birth of modern stock car racing and NASCAR.
The town’s daredevil history is showcased at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and its famous “white lightning” can be sampled at its distillery. There’s even a festival dedicated to the drink that made Dawsonville “The Moonshine Capital of the World.”
But Dawsonville is much more than just moonshine. Nestled between the Appalachian Trail and Lake Lanier, Dawson County is also a major destination for hikers and lake lovers alike.
It’s only a short drive to experience all Dawsonville has to offer, and nowadays you can get there without running down a dark road with an agent on your tail. Now the whiskey’s legal, the festival is family-friendly, and the only moonshine haulers you’ll find are in the Hall of Fame – just how modern-day Dawsonville likes it.
Dawsonville Moonshine distillery
415 HWY 53 E, Dawsonville, GA 30534
Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
There aren’t many places where you can find a legal craft spirits distillery under the same roof as City Hall and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, except maybe Dawsonville.
Dawsonville Distillery’s traditional recipes date back to more than 150 years ago. They have been passed down to “Simmie” from many generations, then into the hands of his granddaughter, Cheryl Wood. They currently operate under Free Spirits Distillery – a nod to Wood’s grandfather, Simmie Free, and the other free-spirited moonshiners of the Appalachians.
And since you can’t talk moonshine around Dawsonville without also talking racing, famed driver Bill Elliott, Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee and 16-time winner of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award, now has his own line of Moonshine. As he’s been known to say, “It’s your time to shine!”
The distillery is open for tours, allowing visitors to see how this “white lightning” is made, and if they’re of legal age, have a taste of this premium craft spirit.
Mountain Moonshine Festival
Oct. 25-27, 2019
Mountain Moonshine Festival has been a tradition in downtown Dawsonville for
more than 50 years. The festival weekend is filled with fun for the whole family.
Like most festivals, the Moonshine Festival has arts and crafts vendors, an
epic assortment of food vendors, activities for kids, and live entertainment.
What makes the Moonshine Festival truly unique is its theme and major car show.
Automobile enthusiasts flock to Dawsonville from all corners of the United
States to see vintage cars, moonshine haulers, late model Fords, race cars, and
more – truly a sight to behold. The weekend is kicked off by the moonshine
parade which always recognizes a grand Marshall who has had major impact in the
field of racing or moonshine making.
The 52nd annual Mountain Moonshine Festival will he held Oct. 25-27, 2019.
Georgia Racing Hall of Fame
415 Hwy 53, Dawsonville, GA 30534
Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday, 1 – 5 p.m.
From exploring the roots of NASCAR to putting your own pedal to the metal, Dawsonville and Dawson County are all about the roar of the engines. If you’re in Dawson County for any length of time, you’ll quickly find that our history of moonshine running during Prohibition nearly 100 years ago grew into today’s NASCAR racing, best embodied by Bill Elliott, better known as “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville.”
Learn about the history of stock car racing and prominent members of Georgia’s racing heritage. Vintage race cars are on display outside and in, including the first NASCAR race car driven by Bill Elliott, moonshine cars, a car driven by the late Casey Elliott, the car owned by Raymond Parks and driven by Lloyd Seay, and the Gober Sosebee ’39 Ford, which won Daytona no fewer than three times. “Saturday Night Drive-In Theatre” is a themed exhibit where you can sit in old cars to watch a movie.
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge
Dawson County is home to 729-foot Amicalola Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Amicalola Falls State Park surrounds the falls, and the Amicalola Falls Lodge is located at the top of the falls. All of the 57 rooms in the lodge offer spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Recreational activities include hiking, trout fishing, and sightseeing on the 1,020 acres of natural surroundings.
In 1957, the Appalachian Trail was re-routed to a new endpoint about 8 miles north of Amicalola Falls State Park, establishing the county as a major destination for hikers.
Compiled by Christie Haynes and Dustin Heard