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Cane Hill Harvest Festival attracts crowd in event’s return after two years’ hiatus because of covid-19

by Denise Nemec Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette | September 22, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.
Jeremiah West, a Lincoln resident, shows one of the blades used to cut and trim cane stalks Saturday during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Festival. The hard outer casings of cane have to be peeled away from the fibrous, juicy interior which can be chewed, but not swallowed, to extract a sweet liquid. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)

CANE HILL -- Historic Cane Hill's 36th Harvest Festival returned this past Saturday after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic with record attendance at its country breakfast and other scheduled events.

Many people of all ages strolled the expansive grounds, listened to music, watched artists at work, participated in historic walking tours and explored the Cane Hill College building and other historic structures.

Crowds were heaviest from midmorning to around 2 p.m. when the heat began to take a toll. Soon though, shade reached the seating area in front of the music stage, and people shifted their chairs and hay bales to match.

Vanessa McKuin, Historic Cane Hill executive director since June 2020, appeared beyond happy at the turnout, her first Harvest Festival as director. She and her mom sat at the information table along with volunteers selling sorghum molasses and festival T-shirts.

The daylong event focused on crafts and artisan skills this year. Some artisans provided demonstrations and allowed participation. A blacksmith, sugarcane pressers and cookers, wool spinners, lace makers, quilters and basket makers were among those showing off their skills. A honey bee keeper was also on hand.

The first event of the day was the country breakfast from 7-10 a.m. Before 9 a.m., the providers had already made one trip to the store for more ingredients, then they dropped the price from $8 to $5 because they ran out of biscuits and gravy. They sold out by 9:45 a.m.

The first band of the day, led by Jacob Phaneuf, was the Raising Cane Hill Band. Phaneuf also directs the Cane Hillbillies, who played fifth in the lineup. Members of the first band were almost all 11 years old and those in the second band about three years older.

Phaneuf and his wife Sarah own Inside Out Studios in Farmington, and Phaneuf directs and teaches music for the Historic Cane Hill Roots Music Program.

"It's cool keeping folk music alive, the skills alive, and [giving the kids a sense of] community involvement," Phaneuf said.

Bobbye Orona pointed out her son Gunnar in Raising Cane and said her son Peyton Orona would be playing in the afternoon with the Cane Hillbillies. The Orona brothers weren't the only sibling set in the two bands. Lennon Phaneuf played in the younger band and his brother Gibson in the older group, and the same was true, respectively, for siblings Hattie and Edy Hall.

Other bands included East of Zion, Plaid Magpie, Statehouse Electric Band and Mountain Gypsy.

The music stage and seating area were more or less the central location in a large, gently sloping, well-mowed lawn immediately north of the 1886 Cane Hill College building. The college fronts onto the white gravel College Avenue, which runs the length of the town one block west and parallel with Arkansas 45.

College Avenue formed the backbone of the event, including parking, and visitors could wander south along it a couple of blocks then turn east a block to get to the Cane Hill Gallery and the Historic Cane Hill Museum and Visitor's Center, both of which front the highway.

All events officially part of the festival were within five minutes walking distance of each other, and restrooms were conveniently located both inside Cane Hill College and in an outdoor, standalone location.

A presentation at 4:30 p.m. about insects by J. Ray Fisher, Ph.D., was held upstairs in the Cane Hill College building, where he shared stories about how insects have changed the course of human history. David Collins, Historic Cane Hill program coordinator, introduced Fisher and explained the presentation was meant to pique people's interest in visiting the Smithsonian Institution's locally curated Habitat exhibit. Located mostly outdoors on the east side of Arkansas 45 across from the museum and visitor center, the exhibit opened in April and runs through the end of November.

Those who remained afterward listened to Mountain Gypsy, whose music was accompanied by grasshoppers' whirr across the grass and the first trills of the birds' evening serenade, sounds that brought the festival to its close.

  photo  Jared Biggs, Historic Cane Hill sites manager, works cooking sorghum above a blazing fire Saturday during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Festival. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Visitors admire complicated and unusual quilts on display in a room in the Cane Hill College building on Saturday during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Festival. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Luke Haegele was the official sorghum juice cook Saturday during the Cane Hill Harvest Festival. He said he learned from his uncle Archie “Leonard” Reed, who served in that role for 27 years. Haegele said he’s cooked sorghum for three harvest festivals. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Clint Haegele feeds sorghum sugar cane into a press Saturday while Jared Phillips walks with his Belgian draft horse Belle on Saturday during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Festival. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Peggy Bowen shows her setup to create lace using bobbins Saturday during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Festival. Dogwood Lace Guild member Glenda Lee says this kind of work is most closely related to lace weaving. Bowen, also a guild member, is a retired kindergarten teacher from West Fork. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Justin and Lindsey White learn about sorghum processing with their children, Collins, 8, and Halle Lynne, 4. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Vanessa McKuin (left), Historic Cane Hill executive director, works the information table Saturday with her mother Elizabeth Norton during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Festival. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Raising Cane, part of the Historic Cane Hill Roots Music program, performs Saturday during the 2022 Cane Hill Harvest Fest. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 
  photo  Robert and Barbara Reynolds visit the sorghum processing area and sample a piece of cane Saturday during the Cane Hill Harvest Festival. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Denise Nemec)
 
 


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