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Portal's Turpentine Festival offers lesson in history and fun
Sisters Margaret Weaver, bottom left, and Grace Brack lean get a turpentine history lesson from Doug Chassereau of the Georgia Forestry Commission during the Turpentine Festival Saturday.

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     On a sun-drenched Fall Saturday the Portal Heritage Society's 28th Annual Catface Turpentine Festival celebrated the town's history and offered a good time for all, as well.
      The parade began the festival promptly at 10 a.m. and was led by Honor Guards Jared Akins, R. Rodriguez, Noel Brown, R. Beckum, and R. Dinello from the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office.
      The festival started on a solemn note in memory of Portal's recent fallen soldier, Sgt. Brock Henry Chavers, Sr. whose wife, son, and mother rode in the parade. Shortly thereafter, "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood and "Go Rest High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill played softly in the background as the family arrived on stage for Mayor Larry Motes and Senator Jack Hill's community tribute honoring Sgt. Chavers.
      Mayor Motes presented an engraved memorial brick to be placed in the brick memorial walkway arranged at the entrance of the Portal Heritage Society, Inc. Heritage House festival grounds. In addition, the mayor presented each of the women with a beautifully-framed needlepoint provided by an anonymous donor.
      The introduction of Miss Turpentine Beauty Pageant winners from nine age groups brought applause and by this time the crowd was growing larger and getting into a festive mood.
      The festival had begun.
      The cake walk began. Museum tours arranged and directed by Doug Chassereau from the U. S. Forestry Service were an instant hit. Kiddies' rides and food lines at the Burger Barn and other places became congested and serious shopping began for quality goods such as purses, straw baskets, quilts, leather goods, jewelry, and quality fresh peanuts from nearby Brooklet.
      The stage continued to change entertainment every 30 minutes and bottles of turpentine were being sold. Rosin baked Irish and sweet potatoes were being consumed. Freshly ground mill from the grist mill was being sold, and friends were sharing warm greetings.
      Lois Roberts, director of the Statesboro Regional Library, was on hand encouraging the public to visit According to Roberts, "To ‘geek' means to celebrate or have passion for something, and to ‘get your geek on' means to explore what you are passionate about." She further emphasized that ‘Geek the Library' is funded by a grant to OCLC from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its purpose is to serve as a community-based public awareness pilot campaign designed to highlight the vital role of public libraries.
      Elsewhere on the grounds were team members led by Capt. Howard Nesmith from the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office operating a Child ID/Fingerprinting community service. Each applicant was receiving a Child ID/Fingerprint Enrollment Form along with assistance in completing their form and in providing all ten finger/thumb prints for secured data storing at the Sheriff's Office.
      Tom Osborne from Friendship Church happily bragged, "There were 14 horses with riders and one dog in the parade." He was one of the riders.
      However, something was missing from the festival.
      "For the first time ever, there was no tar available this year within the USA for making turpentine," Jack Akins reported. "In our search for tar, we found we may be able to import tar from China or South America."
      Remembering his long, active involvement in cooking tar for the Annual Catface Turpentine Festival, Akins said, "Since 1996, there have been several local prime movers of this event: Jackie Anderson, Walton Newton, Carl Hendrix, Bobby Newton, Dr. Frank Saunders, Jr., Dr. Roger Branch, as well as myself."
      "Although some of the movers are no longer with us, those of us that are left will continue in search for tar even to the point of importing it based on import/export guidelines," he said. "It's a good thing we have enough turpentine made to handle sales for the next two years. Hopefully, we'll be cooking turpentine again soon."
      The fun actually began on Friday one day before the festival when students from all four Portal Elementary School 1st grade classrooms took a guided tour of Carter's Turpentine Still. Mr. Jack Akins introduced the students to the turpentine industry by showing how a catface is cut on each tree before tar can be gathered for making turpentine. He allowed each child to smell the fragrance of turpentine and he gave each child a small piece of rosin, the substance remaining after tar is cooked and turpentine is poured.
      The festival continues today with gospel music and all the booths.

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