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There were many handcrafted gifts for sale during the 39th annual Sorghum Festival. Above, Christmas ornaments featuring historical sites throughout Crawford County are featured. Below, sorghum making is demonstrated. Photos by Leslie Radcliff

Festival showcases locals


October 23, 2013
An exhibition that honors family tradition and the sweeter things in life, the 39th annual Sorghum Festival showcased not only traditional sweet making, but also local artisans.

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The festival, sponsored by the Crawford County Arts and Crafts Association, is held each year at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School south of Marengo along S.R. 66.

Event goers were able to purchase a variety of goods that included pottery, jewelry, unique floral arrangements, wood crafts, ceramics, paintings and, of course, the namesake of the festival, sorghum molasses.

The sorghum plant, which has a high sugar content, is produced mainly for silage in the United States.

Sweet sorghum has been cultivated in the United States since the 1850s and has been used in many sweeteners since. By the early 1900s, the U.S. was producing 20 million gallons of sweet sorghum syrup annually.

Most sorghum grown for syrup production is grown in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The process of making syrup from sorghum is very labor intensive and, following World War II, the declining availability of farm labor forced many sorghum producers to dial back on their operations and syrup production fell.

Today, less than 1 million gallons of sorghum are produced each year.

But that hasn't stopped the Bye family from holding a live demonstration of the process each year for more than 50 years and, after festival goers had their fill of the high school event, they were invited to the Bye family farm in order to witness the process in action.

In addition to sorghum making, vendors were on hand to offer homemade kettle corn demonstrations and apple butter making.

There was a silent auction from 10 a.m. until mid-afternoon and plenty of food, including chicken and dumplings, chili and corn bread, barbecue chicken dinners, baked goods and candy, was available for purchase.

Proceeds from the festival fund scholarships for CCJSHS students to further their education after high school. Scholarships for Crawford County students have been awarded each year from the proceeds of this event. Last year's festival awarded three $500 scholarships.

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