A 47-year tradition will continue on Saturday when the Lee County Historical Society and the Town of Loachapoka host Pioneer Day, formerly known as Syrup Soppin' Day.
The event began as a simple historical fair in 1971 to celebrate the history and culture of Lee County.
Before automobiles, supermarkets and the Internet, folks would gather in communities all over Alabama in the fall to celebrate the seasonal harvest and help each other process the sugarcane crop into syrup that would keep all year.
In North Alabama, where sugarcane doesn’t grow that well, farmers would plant sweet sorghum for the same purpose. Mules would slowly turn a cast-iron roller mill to squeeze the sweet juice from the stalks of cane.
An experienced syrup maker would slowly cook the juice over a wood fire in a pan or kettle until it turned into golden brown syrup or thick, dark molasses. Each family that contributed sugarcane or labor took home a bucketful of the delicious syrup.
This tradition will continue on Saturday at Pioneer Park in Loachapoka. Every visitor will have a chance to take home some real, Alabama sugarcane or sorghum syrup.
There will be pioneer life demonstrations throughout Pioneer Park such as local blacksmiths, Creek Indian demonstrations, corn shelling and milling, rope making, pottery making, spinning and weaving, and lots of historical crafts and local handmade items.
The History Seekers 4-H Club will be harvesting and selling sweet potatoes, picking cotton, digging peanuts and cutting sugarcane for the mill where kids can play “mule” and make their own sugarcane juice lemonade for all to enjoy.
More than 100 vendors will be offering everything from pork rinds and funnel cakes to boiled and roasted peanuts. Craft vendors will also be on site.
Don’t forget to sop some homemade sweet potato biscuits in that rich, Alabama sugarcane syrup. Tom Westmoreland and Andy Ettinger have been making sweet potato fritters for 43 years at Pioneer Day.
Attendees can also stop by the Pioneer Park Pavilion for some real, homemade entertainment going on all day long beginning with the Whistle Stop Pickers at 8 a.m. and featuring the Plantation Heirs during the noon hour.
Pioneer Day will start at 7 a.m. and continue until around 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.