The Surry Historical Society is doing its bit to ensure the sonker, a delicacy unique to Surry County, is not forgotten.
For 38 years and counting, they’ve been putting on a sonker festival at the Edwards-Franklin House, a 1799 home west of Mount Airy owned and restored by the society.
The 38th Annual Sonker Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 7, from 1 to 5 p.m. Along with seven kinds of sonkers, there will be Old Time and Bluegrass Music by The Zephyr Lightning Bolts until 2:30 p.m. and then an old-fashioned jam session for anyone who wants to join in.
Surry County Quilter’s Association will be quilting and answering questions, Deborah Wagoner will demonstrate basket-weaving, there will be tatting demonstrations, locally-made pottery on display and flat-foot dancing. A Civil War exhibit will include books, swords, rifles, buttons and other memorabilia.
But the sonkers are what draws the crowds, according to Dr. Annette Ayers, president of the Surry County Historical Society. “Some people go through the line numerous times,” Ayers said.
“Sweet potato is the most popular flavor. It always has been.” But she said the festival will also offer blackberry, blueberry, peach, strawberry and cherry.
Sonker festival sonkers are of the two-crust variety, top and bottom. Ayers said, “Most people today just put the top crust on.”
Also following tradition, there will be “dip.” For some folks, dip is the great signifier of a true sonker. Most people outside of Surry County have no idea what it is.
Ayers describes dip as a sweetened cream and the sonker festival only uses dip for the sweet potato sonker. “Some people want to put it on the other flavors,” said Ayers. “But we discourage that.”
She says that when she was young, dip was made with ginger but over the years, people have switched to cinnamon. She says, “It all comes down to what your Grandma made her dip out of.”
Ayers encouraged visitors to the sonker festival to walk around and enjoy themselves between helpings of sonker. The Edwards-Franklin House will be open for tours, visitors can take a look at the family cemetery and the slave cemetery, or take a stroll down to the creek where the remnants of a water system can be spotted. The system, patterned after a similar one at Old Salem, uses logs that are hewn out and connected with iron bands to transport water from the creek closer to the house. Some of the logs have been uncovered in the creek. There is signage explaining points of interest.
Surry Sonker Festival is Oct. 7, 2017, from 1-5 p.m. at the Edwards-Franklin House, 4132 Haystack Road, Mount Airy, NC 27030. Admission is free, although there is a nominal charge for the sonkers and accompanying beverages. If you play an instrument, bring it and join in the jam session.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.