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Hillbilly Days Go Hog Wild!

The festival season is off to a rousing start thanks to Hillbilly Days in Pikeville. Tony blogs about all the fun at the parade!

Hillbilly Days Shines

Chris Bailey said it best during his live shot from Hambly boulevard in Pikeville on Friday. “Hillbilly days is a celebration of spring and of a unique heritage.” So on Saturday, I made the 2 hour trip down to P-Ville to do my best “Philly Billy” imitation!

Call me what you want, but I spent my Saturday among friends of WSAZ and had a down home country good time.

My first stop came just off the Country Music Highway in Inez Kentucky where my dear friend Carol Sue Mills and the Martin County Kiwanis served up their annual country fixings. This “hillbilly breakfast” featured eggs, tators, sausage and biscuits smothered with Carol Sue’s chocolate gravy.

That's our team picture, the Kiwanians and me, at the beautiful Senior Center you see with this blog.

Carol Sue reported 175 hungry folks gobbled down the breakfast, “off somewhat due to the economy, but still a nice profit for the club”, Carol said. “And we are so lucky to have local advertisers support us with a nice windfall for the Kiwanis scholarship program. We made 1800 dollars in ads”.

That scholarship program means a worthy Sheldon Clark student will have much needed financial support for his or her college debut next fall.

Turned out the brightest Cardinal of them all, James Moore, was on hand with his sister. Since they too were headed to Pikeville too for Hillbilly Days, I piggybacked on their tails as we drove US 23. James is the school’s valedictorian and weighing a journalism academic career at either Marshall or UK!

I arrived around 12:30 in P-Ville and immediately sought out Candy Sawyers, the Main Street Director. A sandy blonde sweetie, Candy set me up with a prime spot in the parade route giving me plenty of time to rub elbows with fellow Hillbillies.

As I walked Hambly, I stared up the hill to Pikeville College and wondered how hard it would be to scale the famous 99 steps. I could easily see why on wet winter days, more snow falls at the top of the steps than at the base. In fact, Peach Orchard Mountain that guards the city often measures a few inches of snow while the ground remains wet from rain along the Levisa Fork.

Since it was now a full 2 hours since I had eaten in Inez, I was getting hungry again. Miss Piggy’s Pork Place seemed a fitting place to graze. I ordered the Pork Chop sandwich at Candy’s suggestion, but only after asking Miss Piggy, “how do you eat a pork chop sandwich and not break your teeth”?

“Eat from the back to the front and you will have no problem”, Miss Piggy told me.

After the first bite I knew I was hooked for life on this Seymour Indiana delicacy. “What’s the secret”, I asked Miss Piggy? “It’s all in the barbecue sauce and how we cook the meat”, HE said!

While in line I met Diane Fugett and her daughter Melanie from Williamson who bragged about the Bluegrass Music over at the park. All three of us tried to dodge the hot steam coming off Miss Piggy’s oven. The swirling winds on the boulevard felt good when the steam was not blowing into our faces.

I quickly scouted out a nice tree on the hillside of College Street to indulge in the pork where I met Bobby Branham of Pikeville. We reminisced about the good old days when Kresge and Woolworth were the big downtown attractions.

Just before the start of the Grand Hillbilly Parade, "Big John" Baisden, a Shriner from Logan stopped by to chat. Big John told me of the olden days when getting kids to the hospital was alot harder. The Shriners do so much for the kids year after year! Big John hasn't missed a Hillbilly Festival since it began in 1977!

To add a touch of nostalia, there was a free Classic Coke concession at College and Hambly that I used to wash down the 2 inch thick, easily quarter pound of pork that I had just scarfed down. Only now was I ready to ride the parade.

Along the parade route, Hillbillies lined up 5 maybe 10 deep on both sides of the boulevard and treated all the entrees, myself included, like Rock stars. Unlike the other parades I do, this one barely has room for a car to pass by.

Folks hung from the rafters, or parking lot, truly, to gain a sort of panoramic view of the parade. The hillsides too were decorated with Hillbillies.

Shout outs came from as far away as Canada and Florida and as closeby as the River Cities. Genieve Adkins from Huntington was among the estimated 20,000 who greeted me. "Watch Newschannel 3 every night", Genieve told me as she shook my hand as the car passed.

It was all over in a half hour, so I hopped back on the Country Music Highway and headed home. Six hours of fun and nostalia had indeed begun the year's travel schedule on a festive note.
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