BARBOURVILLE — The 72nd annual Daniel Boone Festival is scheduled to begin next week in downtown Barbourville.
Attended by thousands of people every year, the Daniel Boone Festival is a celebration of Kentucky pioneer Daniel Boone and lays claim as being the oldest continuous Daniel Boone celebration in the state.
“In 1948 Dr. [Karl] Bleyl at Union College thought it was important that this area recognized history and heritage and he thought Daniel Boone was a prominent member of that heritage,” said Daniel Boone Board Member and Chairman of Information Alvin Jordan.
Bleyl originally created the festival as a way to challenge the media’s perceptions of Kentuckians. Bleyl also aimed to educate young people about their ancestors and the Native Americans who were here before them.
Before the first festival took place, Bleyl visited Cherokee, North Carolina. While he was there he noticed the lack of basketry items for sale by the Native American craftsmen. Bleyl learned there was a lack of cane in the area to craft items with so Bleyl told the natives of his hometown of Barbourville and how the Cumberland Gap produces massive amounts of cane.
“There was a need for them to get cane to make their baskets out of and he worked it into a treaty that we would provide cane to them” said Calvin Riddle, president of the Daniel Boone Festival Committee.
Bleyl and members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation made an agreement that members of the Cherokee Nation were free to come and take as much cane as they needed from our area, in exchange for partaking in the Daniel Boone Festival.
“He asked them to come over in friendship and kindness to attend our festival and get their cane," Jordan said, and the members still come to get their cane during the festival each year. "Sometimes they make an extra trip during the off-season, when the festivals not even going on, and we’ll go around the river and help them collect cane.”
The first treaty was signed on May 21, 1948 and has been signed every year since.
Now days, the treaty is signed during the Daniel Boone Festival Feast. Open to the public, the dinner is a celebration of the friendship and harmony between the Cherokee Nation and the people of Barbourville. It is held at the National Armory and is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 this year.
The treaty is signed by Cherokee leaders, the Daniel Boone Festival president, Barbourville’s mayor, the Knox County Judge-Executive, and a representative from Kentucky’s state government.
Along with the feast, the Daniel Boone Festival honors many other traditions from its inception, the Long Rifle Shoot is a tradition that began in 1949. This year’s shoot is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12.
The festival also honors the history of Daniel Boone through costumes, decorations, art and the primitive camp scheduled to start the morning of Thursday, Oct. 10. The primitive camp is a look into the lifestyle early settlers of Kentucky would have experienced.
“I think the young people get a kick out of the history of that,” said Riddle about the importance of remembering Boone and Kentucky’s pioneers. Riddle and the board try to strike a balance between educating younger attendees and entertaining them. “We try to get everybody to dress up in that period of dress, and I think the kids enjoy that. We’ve got the festival, concert, shows, and we’ve got a carnival that get their interest as far as modern stuff.”
Other highlights of the week-long festival include carnival rides that run daily beginning Tuesday, a craft village that is open daily beginning Thursday, and entertainment each evening beginning Thursday.
Friday night's entertainment is headlined by Walker Montgomery at 9:30 p.m.
The festival wraps up Saturday with a parade at 2 p.m. and the headlining entertainment at 8:30 p.m. with Mark Wills.
Riddle says it’s important to keep the memory of Boone, Bleyl, and the cane treaty alive as they have helped create a heritage that resonates with so many Kentuckians and visitors of the state.
“It’s a homecoming for everybody that used to be here, live here, and still lives here. A lot of people come to town and get reacquainted,” Riddle said.
For more information about the Daniel Boone Festival, and a detailed list of events visit www.danielboonefestival.com.