By Morgan Bryce
Pioneer Days at Loachapoka, formerly known as the Syrup Soppin’, will return for a 48th year Oct. 19.
Organized by members of the Lee County Historical Society, the event serves as a fundraiser for the group, showcasing older ways of life and featuring a wide array of activities for adults and children alike.
“Of course we’ll have a bunch of vendors selling handcrafted or handmade items, wonderful food vendors that you’d find at a fair that may be even a little bit better, including our famous sweet potato biscuits, which you can’t really find anywhere else,” said LCHS secretary Deborah McCord. “For kids, we’ll have a pony ride, petting zoo, rock-climbing wall, pow-wow dancing led by youth from the Poarch Creek Indians … and a whole lot more.”
Instead of setting up near the railroad tracks along Highway 14, vendors are being moved to the interior of Pioneer Park this year for increased safety and a larger space to operate. McCord said nearly 100 vendors are confirmed and more are expected to join in the days leading up to the event.
Pioneer Park’s 11 historic structures, including the two-story Old Trade Center built in 1845, will be open to the public that day. Society members and event volunteers will demonstrate activities found in older Southern culture including basketweaving, blacksmithing, ginning cotton, syrup making and more.
Local bluegrass, folk and gospel groups will provide live music throughout the day, most notably the Whistle Stop Pickers who perform at the park’s Second Saturday event each month.
Lasting from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event will be held rain or shine, according to McCord.
Attendance varies, but numbers have eclipsed 20,000 at previous years of the event.
Both McCord and Loachapoka Mayor James Grout said they see an event as important to preserving the past for the education of present and future generations.
“We really want the public to know about our past and to come out and see what we have … there a lot of items that are one-of-a-kind and help tell both Loachapoka’s and the county’s story,” McCord said.
“Pioneer Day is our way to help educate the younger generation of what it was like when Loachapoka was a pioneer community … self-sustaining production (was) all that your family needed to stay alive,” Grout said. “The importance (of the event) to the town economy is to a lesser degree; but provides a much greater importance to the society. The revenue generated and shared is always welcome.”
Membership dues are another important factor in helping the organization stage significant events like Pioneer Days and Second Saturday at Pioneer Park. The cost is $25 for individuals and $30 for families per year.
For more information, call 334-887-3007, like and follow the historical society’s Facebook page or visit www.leecountyhistoricalsociety.org. The park is located at 6500 Stage Road in downtown Loachapoka.