Sorghum Festival returns Saturday, pays tribute region’s rich history in sorghum production

October 28, 2021 | 12:15 am

Updated October 28, 2021 | 11:16 am

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The Independence Bank Sorghum Festival returns to the Hancock County Fairgrounds in Hawesville this Saturday at 10 a.m. The event pays homage to the rich history of sorghum production in the area and the impact it continues to have. 

The free event boasts a family atmosphere with costume contests, inflatables, kids’ rides, and more. Festival-goers can also expect to see local arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, and a live sorghum-cooking display. 

The title sponsor and host of the event, Independence Bank, will be on hand serving up homemade biscuits laced with butter and covered in sweet goodness. Wade Gaynor, president of the Hancock County Independence Bank locations, said the event was a decades-old county tradition that was discontinued in 2010 before being revitalized in 2013 by the bank.

“The best part of my job is that we’re able to do a lot in the community,” Gaynor said. “We take a lot of pride in giving back and celebrating the community’s rich heritage. We want to provide a fun atmosphere for kids and showcase our local vendors and craftspeople.”

Owensboro and Daviess County also boast a rich history in sorghum production and send many residents to the festival each year to preserve the practice. Many of the art and food vendors making the short trek to Hawesville are familiar Owensboro staples.  

The small community of Sorgho on the west side of town derived its name from sorghum, relying on the sorgho cane as their bumper crop. Residents formed the Daviess County Sugar Company in what was then called Sorghotown in 1868 before eventually bowing down to whitened cane sugar. 

Brody Cox is a sixth-generation sorghum farmer that will complete the final phase of sorghum production at the festival: cooking it. Cox and his crew of local FFA members harvest the cane every fall in a process that is undoubtedly “old-fashioned.”

“We take pride in doing it the old-fashioned way — cutting and feeding the stalks into the mill by hand,” Cox said. “Years ago, everyone had a family member that made sorghum before processed sugar took over.”

The process consists of planting, cutting, loading, and storing the sorghum before the fun part ever begins. Producers will cut the leaves from the canes and then feed the canes into a tractor-fueled mill that crushes them, collecting the juices in a pan. They then pump the juices into a tank, where it’s filtered several times before cooking. 

With increased government regulations and processed sugar production, it’s easy to see how the concept that traces its roots back to colonial America has dwindled. However, recent trends towards artisan cultures are on the rise; thus, increasing the demand for sorghum. High-end restaurants and luxury hotels are using the syrup in many of their craft-made cocktails and dishes. 

Though the event is free, Independence Bank will collect donations for the Hancock County Schools backpack program, which provides food to underserved children. 

“We get such great support for our backpack program through this festival,” Gaynor said. “People that attend on Saturday will see a festival that’s very unique; we have wood craftspeople, honey producers, and vendors from around the region.”

For a detailed festival schedule, click here. For updates and additional information, search the event on Facebook or visit 

October 28, 2021 | 12:15 am

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