Savoring the sorghum

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

October 16, 2013

In the mood for a homemade sweet treat and some old-time fun? This weekend locals will have the opportunity to take a step back in time and enjoy both at this year’s annual Sorghum Festival.

Held on the third Saturday in October every year at McDaniels Crossroads, the Sorghum Festival celebrates and preserves the good old days with crafts, antique tractors, tours of the community’s old schoolhouse and county store, and, of course, sorghum syrup.

Keeping the old traditions alive through the festival is John Matthews, the organizer of the event for 16 years now.

“It’s an educational thing, especially for the younger folks,” he noted. “There’s lots of things there that they’ve probably never seen before and don’t know how it works or how it was used to 100 years ago.”

“It’s also about preserving the old school building,” Matthews added, mentioning that the schoolhouse was built in 1924 for $8,000. “The first year of school there was in 1925, and the school stayed open until 1949. Then, they started sending the kids to Roseboro to school. The first principal’s salary was only $17.50 a month.”

As he recalled the old building’s rich history, Matthews stressed that the McDaniels community has a rare jewel in the little schoolhouse. “They’re becoming few and far between. A lot of them from that time have been torn down.”

Those who come out for the Sorghum Festival will have the chance to tour the schoolhouse which houses a variety of paraphernalia from days gone by. Also open for tours will be the community’s old country store which, Matthews shared, dates back to the early 1900s and once housed a post office for the people of McDaniels.

Other activities planned for the day are set to include craft vendors selling their wares, live music provided by Charles Carlyle and his band at 1 p.m., an antique tractor and farm equipment display, a train layout, and plenty of good food like barbecue, hot dogs, fresh picked apples from the mountains of Virgina, of course, sorghum which Matthews will be cooking up himself.

Last year, an estimated 2,000 people turned out to enjoy these festival happenings, and Matthews hopes those and more will make the trek to McDaniels for this year’s event.

“Everyone needs to come out. There’s a lot of things of interest to see and do,” he said, noting that it’s a great opportunity to socialize, catch up with family and friends, and maybe even meet some new faces.

“It’s like a big family reunion. I know I’ll see people there that I haven’t seen since last year. It’s a good time to fellowship with folks for sure,” Matthews said, adding that his daughter travels from California every year for the festival as does his son and family who live in Virgina. “It brings our family together at least once a year.”

“We’ve had people come from South Carolina, and people who are vacationing from out of state have come,” he added.

Whether they come from near or far, all attendees, just by participating, help keep some of the old-time traditions alive and help preserve one of the few old schoolhouses still standing.

“We make very limited profits,” said Matthews, pointing out that admission to the festival is free. “The little we do make all goes to preserving the schoolhouse.”

“The roof constantly needs repairs, especially around the chimneys where it tends to leak,” he shared of the work attention such an old building requires to ensure that it will remain standing for future generations as an example of life back when. “I’m trying to save enough to replace some of the siding on the building. It all costs money.”

Although both the preservation work and festival take time and funds from Matthews and the community, it is for all, as Matthews described, “a labor of love.”

“I’m getting to be an old man but I hope I can do it for another 16 years,” he said. “It’s something we really enjoy.”

The Sorghum Festival will held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this year at the Old McDaniels Schoolgrounds located at McDaniel’s Crossroads between Garland and Roseboro where Hwy. 411/Old Mintz Hwy. and Boykin Bridge Road intersect.

To learn more about the annual Sorghum Festival, please visit

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at