Sonker Festival offers taste of history


By Tom Joyce - [email protected]



A line of people wait at the sonker table for their cup of the tasty treat available in four different flavors.


Jessica Llewellyn of Mount Airy prepares to sample a blackberry sonker.


People sit on the lawn of the Edwards-Franklin House while enjoying music from a band on the porch.


Members of D and D and Company play bluegrass music during the Surry Sonker Festival.


A heavily attended weekend event at the Edwards-Franklin House was a chance for people from all over to learn about history — that is, when they weren’t munching a unique dessert.

Appropriately, the historic structure dating to 1799 and the grounds surrounding it featured a number of events Saturday during the 37th-annual Surry County Sonker Festival. There were quilting displays, live bluegrass and old-time music, a Civil War display, period clothing, tours of the house, a pottery exhibit and more.

But it was hard to get away from the notion that the sonkers — deep-dish fruit pies unique to Surry County — were the main attraction.

“The history’s good,” Charles Honeycutt of Winston-Salem said as he waited in line for a plastic cup filled with the tasty treat.

“But I’m here for the sweet potato (sonker) and the dip that goes on it,” Honeycutt said. “Sweet potato, oh my gosh.”

And the visitor from Winston-Salem was not alone.

The sonkers were available in four flavors this year, blackberry, peach, cherry “and the most popular, which is sweet potato,” said Dr. Annette Ayers, the president of the Surry County Historical Society. That non-profit group stages the Sonker Festival each year.

“Everybody in this area can identify with a sweet potato sonker,” Ayers explained regarding its appeal. “Everybody’s grandma made them, or their great-grandmother — they’re just part of the identity of this area, kind of like sweet tea.”

Many other people seemed to have the same sweet tooth Saturday as Charles Honeycutt, who was making a return visit. “This is at least my fifth time here,” he said.

Attendees also came from much farther away.

“We had somebody here really very early from Danville, Virginia,” said Marion Venable of the Surry Historical Society.

“It’s just great,” Venable said of the turnout.

A peek of a guest register inside the Edwards-Franklin House showed people also came from such places as Charlotte; Durham; Kernersville; Charleston, South Carolina; Hillsville, Virginia; and even Minnesota.

Judging from the long lines at the sonker table, where trays of the delectable dessert awaited, they seemed to be drawn to it most, although when not consuming sonkers many people were in lawn chairs listening to the music and watching flatfooters.

“The food, it brings us all together,” said Ayers. “And everybody seems to be having such a good time — and it is a diverse group of people.”

Saturday’s festival brought “all our little segments of history together today,” Ayers said, including tours of the Edwards-Franklin House and other activities.

Debbie Myers of Winston-Salem, who was attending the Surry Sonker Festival for the first time at Honeycutt’s urging, pointed to another aspect of the gathering held in a remote part of the county.

“When you live in the city, the ambiance of coming out to the country,” Myers said.

That sentiment was echoed by Jessica Llewellyn as she plunged her spoon into a blackberry sonker, who said the group she came with decided to attend the festival because it is held on the first day of a popular autumn period.

“We’re celebrating the month of October,” Llewellyn explained.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

A line of people wait at the sonker table for their cup of the tasty treat available in four different flavors.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_Sonk-this-1.jpgA line of people wait at the sonker table for their cup of the tasty treat available in four different flavors.

Jessica Llewellyn of Mount Airy prepares to sample a blackberry sonker.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_Sonk-this-2.jpgJessica Llewellyn of Mount Airy prepares to sample a blackberry sonker.

People sit on the lawn of the Edwards-Franklin House while enjoying music from a band on the porch.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_Sonk-this-3.jpgPeople sit on the lawn of the Edwards-Franklin House while enjoying music from a band on the porch.

Members of D and D and Company play bluegrass music during the Surry Sonker Festival.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_Sonk-this-4.jpgMembers of D and D and Company play bluegrass music during the Surry Sonker Festival.

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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