Savor the flavor at Sonker Fest

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@mtairynews.com
Attendees of last year's Surry County Sonker Festival enjoy the deep-dish treats unique to this area while seated on the lawn of the historic Edwards-Franklin House. - Tom Joyce | The News
Acclaimed guitarist Chester McMillian, right, shown with fiddler Richard Bowman during an earlier performance, will headline the entertainment offerings at this Saturday's festival. - Tom Joyce | The News

The public has a chance this Saturday to taste a celebrated part of Surry County culture — literally.

This will occur during the 39th-Annual Sonker Festival, to be held on the grounds of the historic (1799) Edwards-Franklin House at 4132 Haystack Road west of Beulah.

The festival is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m., also offering live old-time music, flatfooting and other activities.

While the event has been a fixture on the local scene for nearly four decades, its main attraction has remained the same: the deep-dish fruit dessert with the strange name of “sonker.” It has been described as not really cobbler and not really pie.

One thing for sure is that the tasty treat is unique to Surry, rarely encountered outside its boundaries. Just like the Edwards-Franklin House, the local sonker tradition dates to Colonial times, according to Dr. Annette Ayers, president of the Surry County Historical Society that presents the festival.

Given such a distinction, it is only natural that folks from the outside world flock to Sonker Mecca on Haystack Road each fall. Anticipated attendance usually runs between 400 and 500, which should be bolstered by Saturday’s forecast.

“We’re expecting wonderful weather this time,” Ayers said.

Over the years, the Sonker Festival’s reach has become broader and broader, she added.

“We have people from all over the Southeast anymore,” Ayers said those attending. “It’s not just the county people.”

Flavors of sonkers to be available Saturday include cherry, blackberry, strawberry, peach, sweet potato and blueberry.

Sweet potato has proven to be the most popular, with strawberry coming in second.

Sixty large trays of sonker usually are prepared altogether, which Ayers said translates to more than 750 servings.

The price for each is $3, with beverages to be available Saturday for $1.

Admission to the event itself is free.

Music and more

The Surry County Sonker Festival offers more than just its namesake dessert.

Saturday’s event will continue a tradition of old-time music performed from the front porch of the Edwards-Franklin House.

This year the historical group booked The West Surry Rangers, featuring award-winning musician Chester McMillian.

“We’re so excited to have Chester,” Ayers said of a veteran entertainment figure not only well known locally but across the U.S. due to playing at various venues.

McMillian has performed at the Sonker Festival over the years.

“He loves the Edwards-Franklin House,” Ayers said, and is a big supporter of the Surry County Historical Society.

The West Surry Rangers is relatively new on the local musical scene, with Mecca and Adam Lowe among its other members. The group is scheduled to play from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

A flatfooting area will be set up on the lawn in front of the house, and there is plenty of space for visitors to sit around and listen to the music while enjoying the sonkers.

“We do encourage everybody, of course, to bring their own lawn chairs,” Ayers said.

The Sonker Festival also will include quilting, basketry and pottery displays, along with a Civil War exhibit.

“We invite people to tour the house,” Ayers said of the Edwards-Franklin structure.

Attendees of last year’s Surry County Sonker Festival enjoy the deep-dish treats unique to this area while seated on the lawn of the historic Edwards-Franklin House.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Sonk-that-1.jpgAttendees of last year’s Surry County Sonker Festival enjoy the deep-dish treats unique to this area while seated on the lawn of the historic Edwards-Franklin House.Tom Joyce | The News

Acclaimed guitarist Chester McMillian, right, shown with fiddler Richard Bowman during an earlier performance, will headline the entertainment offerings at this Saturday’s festival.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Sonk-that-2.jpgAcclaimed guitarist Chester McMillian, right, shown with fiddler Richard Bowman during an earlier performance, will headline the entertainment offerings at this Saturday’s festival.Tom Joyce | The News
Annual event takes place Saturday

By Tom Joyce

tjoyce@mtairynews.com

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.