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Portal to fire up the still for 38th annual Turpentine Festival
In this file photo from 2018, Belinda Collins, right background, purchases some genuine turpentine from Beola Charles during the 37th Annual Catface Turpentine Festival in Portal. Once a highly used solvent in industry, some still use turpentine for medicinal purposes, such as for joint and muscle pain when applied to the skin. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Portal Heritage Society expects a lively crowd Saturday, Oct. 5, as the annual Catface Country Turpentine Festival takes on its 38th year, said PHS member Jerry Lanigan.

The term "catface" refers to the distinctive marks slashed into pine trees during the pine tar harvesting process, resembling cat's whiskers. The festival commemorates Portal's rich agricultural history that centered around harvesting pine tar and distilling turpentine.

During the festival, the historic E.C. Carter turpentine still is fired up and visitors can see how turpentine is made. The still is one of only two operational stills that exist today, Lanigan said.

Turpentine, used for medicinal purposes as well as many industrial uses and products, will be made and sold, she said. The Portal Heritage Society will also be selling turpentine soap.

The festival begins with a parade in Portal starting at 10 a.m., when the festival grounds also open. There will be food vendors with items like barbecue, burgers and fries, frozen drinks, funnel cakes and rosin-baked potatoes, she said. These were popular and convenient treats turpentiners enjoyed while working.

There will be a petting zoo, kiddie rides and a bouncy house, as well as a new attraction — the log playhouse for children, where they can play games, according to Lanigan.

Crafts vendors will offer jewelry, home décor, 

artwork, novelties and woodwork. One new exhibit is a tanner, who will display furs and skins, she said.

Another new attraction is a Confederate group from Swainsboro with an educational booth. They will allow people to fire a musket, but safely, she said.

There will be free entertainment throughout the day, including performances by vocalists, cloggers and bands. The list of performers includes Allison Chasereau, Cole Tomlinson, Glen Walden, Garvin Herrington, McAllister and Dakota Thompson, and Play J Snip.

Bands and groups include Portal Elementary School students, the Portal Middle/High School Band, Heartland Express Cloggers, Duct Tape, School of Rock, and The DILLIGAF Country Band, who will perform during the street dance starting at 7 p.m., she said.

Portal Heritage Society President Tim Cook said the festival is expected to be one of the best ever. 

"I hope everyone comes out for a fun-filled day," he said. "Thank you for supporting the Portal Heritage Society."

The annual event is a fundraiser for the club, which uses the proceeds to maintain and operate historical buildings and sites such as the still, the drug store and museum in the small town.

The festival is a family-oriented event, and Lanigan asks that visitors keep in mind that the grounds are dry due to a drought and to "please be careful with cigarettes."

The festival site is on Turpentine Drive in Portal, a small town located about 12 miles north of Statesboro on Highway 80 West.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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