Sonkers sell like hotcakes at festival

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@mtairynews.com
Debbie Joyce of Mount Airy, left, feeds a sweet potato sonker to her appreciative dog Bella Saturday as a seated Linda Gunter enjoys hers. - Tom Joyce | The News
Landon Dowell of Sparta and Samantha Wilhelmi of Elkin show off their flatfooting skills during the 39th-Annual Surry County Sonker Festival. - Tom Joyce | The News
The yard of the Edwards-Franklin House is filled with people enjoying sonkers along with live music. - Tom Joyce | The News
Members of the old-time group The West Surry Rangers perform from the front porch of the house. - - Tom Joyce | The News

The Surry County Historical Society is a non-profit organization — but if it ever takes the for-profit route, the group should consider selling sonkers full-time judging by the success of an event Saturday.

People came from far and wide to the historic Edwards-Franklin House to sample a Surry County delicacy at the 39th-Annual Sonker Festival sponsored by the society.

And folks also came early.

“Even though we didn’t open until 1 p.m., people started showing up at 10 o’clock,” said Dr. Annette Ayers, the president of the Surry County Historical Society.

“We have not stopped serving since we started — no lull or break,” Ayers added around 2 p.m. while surveying folks waiting in line for the deep-dish fruit pies that date to Colonial days and are unique to this area.

“It’s just been constant.”

Folks not only came to the Sonker Festival from all over North Carolina and parts of Virginia, but states including New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia, based on those signing a guest register inside the 1799 Edwards-Franklin House on Haystack Road.

Although the festival was scheduled to run until 5 p.m. Saturday, a row of non-stop servers had run out of several flavors of the dessert dish by shortly after 2 p.m. which was selling for $3 a pop.

“They’re delicious,” Glenda Laster of Mount Airy said while waiting in line for remaining sonkers of sweet potato, blackberry and cherry. Extra supplies of the sweet potato variety had been prepared due to it being the most popular.

“They’re as authentic as you can get,” Laster, a longtime festival attendee, said of the sonkers, which have been described as not really cobbler and not really pie.

Her appreciation for the event at the Edwards-Franklin House is rooted in “just the history of the place — the fact it is a Surry County thing.”

Along with the human consumers, animals enjoyed the tasty treat.

Debbie Joyce of Mount Airy was attending the festival with her dog Bella and friend, Linda Gunter.

“I’ve been meaning to come, but things kept getting in the way,” said Joyce, who was glad to finally take in the gathering, as was Bella, a 3-year-old purebred husky.

“And she enjoys her sonker,” the Mount Airy resident remarked as the canine devoured a sweet potato one. Bella even lapped up a morsel that found its way to the ground.

Multiple attractions

The front lawn of the Edwards-Franklin House was filled with people who sat in lawn chairs to enjoy the dessert that apparently has achieved the coveted “to die for” status.

Although the sonkers seemed to be a big enough drawing card, the festival also featured live old-time music by The West Surry Rangers. The group performed old favorites such as “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” and “Willow Garden” from the porch of the house, and livelier tunes that prompted flatfooting on plywood arranged in the yard.

“The day has been good,” Ayers pronounced. “And I would say we’ve had more people than usual, but we always have a big turnout.”

Also at the multi-faceted festival were quilting, basketry and pottery displays, along with a Civil War exhibit. Tours of the house and visits to nearby graves of slaves were other activities of the event.

But there was no question that it was all about the sonkers, with organizers expecting more than 750 servings to be doled out altogether.

Debbie Joyce of Mount Airy, left, feeds a sweet potato sonker to her appreciative dog Bella Saturday as a seated Linda Gunter enjoys hers.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Sonk-this-1.jpgDebbie Joyce of Mount Airy, left, feeds a sweet potato sonker to her appreciative dog Bella Saturday as a seated Linda Gunter enjoys hers.Tom Joyce | The News

Landon Dowell of Sparta and Samantha Wilhelmi of Elkin show off their flatfooting skills during the 39th-Annual Surry County Sonker Festival.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Sonk-this-2.jpgLandon Dowell of Sparta and Samantha Wilhelmi of Elkin show off their flatfooting skills during the 39th-Annual Surry County Sonker Festival.Tom Joyce | The News

The yard of the Edwards-Franklin House is filled with people enjoying sonkers along with live music.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Sonk-this-3.jpgThe yard of the Edwards-Franklin House is filled with people enjoying sonkers along with live music.Tom Joyce | The News

Members of the old-time group The West Surry Rangers perform from the front porch of the house.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Sonk-this-4.jpgMembers of the old-time group The West Surry Rangers perform from the front porch of the house.Tom Joyce | The News

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.