Some traditions need preserved

John Simon’s Sorghum Festival

By Kimberly Jenkins - [email protected]

John Simon making sorghum at his farm.

John Simon making sorghum at his farm.

Sorghum is a something most millennials and other people of this day and age, know little about, but John Simon has spent the last 36 years keeping the tradition of Sorghum makin’ going strong in Scioto County.

The 36th Annual Sorghum Makin’ Festival at John R. Simon’s Family Farm is set to start for Saturday, Sept. 30 and runs thru Sunday, Oct. 1. Folks can spend the day and see tradition preserved at 872 Pond Creek/Carey’s Run Road Portsmouth.

Simon has been hosting this festival on his family farm the entire 36 years. He said he learned to make sorghum from his neighbor, Mr. Hackworth.

“He was getting on in age and, he taught me how to make it and sold me his equipment and it’s been on my farm every since,” Simon said.

Mr. Hackworh lived long enough to not only see the festival, but also helped during it.

“It’s something you don’t see people doing any more, it’s one of the older arts that no longer is seen much. A stock of sorghum looks something like a stock of corn and the stock comes up and it has juice inside, that juice you put in a pan and put a fire underneath it and cook it, until you get enough water out of it that it turns into syrup and that syrup is called sorghum,” said Simon.

Some of the things that go on at the festival, is that people come with musical instruments. Simon is a musician and they always come and just play the fiddle and whatever instrument, and they play and people come to watch and listen to the players.

“It’s unusual to see and hear music that is not plugged in and not loud and so forth. There may be a fiddle, guitar, a bass, and someone may play the mandolin. There may also be a dulcimer, it’s an old mountain instrument that you lay on your lap and you chord it and pick it. People will also come and sing and dance,” Simon said.

The Portsmouth Library usually comes out and does a demonstration.

“There is a beautiful quilt guild that comes out to the farm. They sell chances on quilts and sell quilts. And, they demonstrate the making of quilts. Simon said that Brad Summer, is probably the lead honey collector in this area, and he sells real good honey and people like that. Simon also mentioned that a lot of farm people will bring their canned goods to sell. “We sell apple butter, and all sorts of things like that,” said Simon.

A lady named Marta Eichenlaub comes and she takes egg shells and does art on them, they call it egg art. She won an award recently, for having such an unusual skill. There are also soap makers, plus other craft makers.

Simon says he has never regretted learning to make sorghum and then having his festival. He laughed and said he is not quite as young as he was 36 years ago, but friends and neighbors come, so there is a whole bunch of people to work there. They are really a big help to him. Simon brought up that he has a mural up there on his farm. He said he hired the man who does the murals in Portsmouth, Robert L. Dafford, to come and paint a big mural of the making of sorghum, for the farm and it’s located on the side of the building out there.

Simon said that people like to come there for different reasons, whether it is to listen to the music or just for the quietness of the farm, to have a good time; they bring their own chairs and might stay all day. They have everything one needs to spend the day.

“There used to a lot of schools that would bring kids out, but there are not as many as used to be,”Simon said.

Simon told that some of those children would come out and it would be the first time they would see a pig or farm, so he thought it was a great thing to do.

Simon has written a few books one on Roy Rogers that Roy Roger’s sister had started, but became ill and asked Simon to finish and one on Cowboy Copas from Blue Creek and became famous on the Grand Ole Opry. He said he sells these books at the festival also.

Whether people like to enjoy the flavor of sorghum, listen to ole’ time music, enjoy different craft making, the traditions of the past can be enjoyed even now, by people of all ages. The John Simon Sorghum Festival has many things that folks can use to teach their children,that doesn’t involve anything electronical.

John Simon making sorghum at his farm. Simon making sorghum at his farm.
John Simon’s Sorghum Festival

By Kimberly Jenkins

[email protected]

Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928

Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928