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Jessica Meuse, a Top 4 finalist on Season 13 of "American Idol," is the musical headliner for this weekend's Etowah Moonshine Festival.
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Chico of Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners" will be featured at the Etowah Moonshine Festival.
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Roy Grooms, of Discovery's "Moonshiners," right, will be a guest at the Etowah Moonshine Festival.
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Tyler Wood will be among the Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners" celebrities at the Etowah Moonshine Festival.

If you go

› What: Etowah Moonshine Festival.

› When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, June 10-11.

› Where: Savannah Oaks Winery, 1817 Delano Road in Delano, Tenn.

› Admission: $10 per day, free for children 10 and younger; nominal charges for Kids Zone activities.

› Website: www.etowahmoonshinefestival.com.

Southerners have a penchant for highlighting the culture, crops or community history of their towns when naming their festivals. Etowah, Tenn., is no exception.

This weekend's Etowah Moonshine Festival is a nod to its days as a hub for moonshiners, bootlegging and copper-pot stills.

Moonshine — aka white lightning, homebrew, mountain dew or rotgut — is the high-proof alcohol secretly distilled in the backwood hollows of Appalachia. It was delivered out of the hills by rugged men called ridge runners, who "ran the ridges" instead of driving across hill or mountain tops where they chanced being silhouetted against the sky, making them easier for revenuers to catch on these illegal runs.

"There is history up here," says Sandi LeQuire, festival planner. "Even on Starr Mountain they've found a bunch of still sites. I used to own Dixie Queen Stills, and moonshiners would come in to buy pots from me. Copper pots are a handmade, traditional art form. People still buy copper pots, but now it's often to distill their own water, make ethanol for cars and make essential oils."

So Friday and Saturday, June 10-11, there will be moonshine makers, ridge runners and even still-building at the festival — but only beer or wine for sale.

The festival will be held on the grounds of Savannah Oaks Winery in Delano, Tenn., six miles south of Etowah. Guest moonshiners will be stars of Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners": ridge runner Roy Grooms, Mike Peek, Tyler and Chico. Rebecca Slagle from National Geographic's "Moonshine Mayhem" will be there along with Van Fields from "Living Proof."

LeQuire says some of these celebrities are bringing show DVDs with them, which will be shown in the air-conditioned, 500-seat pavilion on-site.

At noon on both days, Bill Lassiter will give a still-building demonstration. Four regional distilleries will have displays on-site: Dalton Distillery of Dalton, Ga., Tennessee Legend Distillery of Sevierville, The Moonshine Co. of Paducah, Ky., and Hanging Dog Moonshine of Hanging Dog, N.C.

Casey Davis, Savannah Oaks manager, says visitors can't sample these distillery products but will get to see them and talk to their makers. Although there will be no moonshine drinking, visitors can buy wine by the glass or bottle at the winery, and Tarver's Beer Garden will have beer for sale.

LeQuire says 40 vendor booths, plus concessionaires, will be set up on the grounds along with four stages of entertainment. The festival headliner is Jessica Meuse, who came in fourth on Season 13 of "American Idol." She will perform from 7 to 8 p.m. both days. Her concert is included in the $10 gate admission.

Other acts include Cole Sitzlar, Saving Grass Express, Unbridled Strings, Bo Swafford, Blue Z Blues and Down Earth.

LeQuire says only handicapped parking will be allowed on festival grounds. Everyone else will park at a designated 4-acre area at the intersection of Delano Road and Highway 411, where a free shuttle will transport guests to and from the festival site. There is no charge for parking.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

Mountain Dew

Oh they call it that good ole mountain dew

And them that refuse it are few

I’ll shut up my mug if you fill up my jug

With some good ole mountain dew

— Grandpa Jones

Ride the train

While in Etowah, catch the Hiwassee Loop Rail Adventure through the Cherokee National Forest, hosted by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum on Friday, June 10. Tickets for the 3.5-hour trip are $40 adults, $30 children ages 2-12. Mention the Etowah Moonshine Festival when you book your reservation and receive $5 off the ticket price.

The trip begins at Etowah’s restored L&N Depot and Museum, where passengers will board buses at 1:30 p.m. for a short shuttle ride to the train boarding location. The 50-mile, round-trip excursion travels along the Hiwassee River and through the secluded Hiwassee River Gorge to the top of the famous “Hiwassee Loop,” where tracks cross over themselves as they wind up the mountain near Farner, Tenn.

For more information or reservations, go to www.tvrail.com.

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