"Lord, Mr. Ford, I just wish that you could see what your simple, horseless carriage has become. Well it seems your contribution to man, to say the least, got a little out of hand. Lord, Mr. Ford, what have you done?"
Of course, that is the chorus to Atlanta's own Jerry Reed's 1973 hit that bemoans how the automobile has complicated everyday life. Now we all know that Henry Ford didn't actually create the automobile - rather he developed the means for its mass-production - but folks take it easy on writer Dick Feller. Hey, "Lord Mr. Benz" just wouldn't have sounded right.
That verse could, however, be a fitting, factual chorus to a lament by the Sheriff's Deputies forced to chase after rum-runners behind the wheel of sedans with Ford's powerful flathead V8 under the hood. Those Fords were the car of choice for bootlegging, which we all know evolved into stock car racing. The drivers found the deputies to not be all that much of a challenge, started racing one another, the sport became more and more organized, and voila.
The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame pays tribute to the moonshiners that gave birth to our favorite sport. Many of them, such as famous cousins Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, and Raymond Parks, along with Charlie Mincey and Gober Sosebee, hauled rum from Dawsonville through the moonlit North Georgia backroads.
A 1939 Ford owned by Mincey himself - who is still living - is on display at the Hall. This particular car wasn't used for bootlegging, but one just like it was. The display is accented by an actual still that demonstrates the complexity of making the 'shine. For all the jokes about the intelligence of mountain people, you've got to be a pretty smart cookie to work something like that without blowing yourself and half the county sky high.
The actual Hall of Fame itself, with the kiosks for each of the first eight inductees - Seay, Hall, Parks, Sosebee, mechanic Red Vogt, Red Byron, and Bill Elliott - is a tribute to moonshining as well. The hall is dark to give the impression of a moonlit backroad, with metal silhouettes of trees and foliage adding to the whole setting.
Finally, while not an actual part of the Hall of Fame and Museum, there is an actual moonshine distillery located in the building.
Dawson County pays homage to its heritage as a hub of rum-running with the annual "Mountain Moonshine Festival." Both moonshiners and revenuers share tales of their exploits, including dealings with the iconic Parks, Seay, Hall, and Sosebee. A parade of period Fords like the Mincey car on display rumbles through the streets of Dawsonville. A sweet lady by the name of Faye Abercrombie told me during my visit to the Hall that once all the cars are started up, the Hall of Fame's building literally shakes.
This year's Festival is this very weekend, coinciding with the induction of the Hall's 11th class. Festivities take place Saturday and Sunday from 8-5. The Parade itself commences at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. There are plenty of activities for the whole family, including games, rides, crafts, music, and of course plenty of cars. The Grand Marshal of this year's Festival is none other than NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore, who's No. 47 Pontiac piloted by Jack Smith (the very first car to turn laps at what is now Atlanta Motor Speedway) is on display inside the museum. Several other luminaries, including the surviving members of this year's Hall of Fame class (1970 Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton, NHRA Pro Stock drag racing icon Warren Johnson, and short-tracking legend Doug Kenimer) will be on hand.