Portal Turpentine Festival gets now-rare pine tar

By Dal Cannady - bio | email

PORTAL, GA (WTOC) - A generation of southern families survived the great depression by turning pine tar to turpentine. Now, the pine tar used in it is as rare as the people who still know how to distill it.

Organizers of the annual Portal Turpentine Festival found a source of pine tar in Mexico and ordered barrels of it for the festival October 2 and 3. Beetles have become a threat to the pine trees. Therefore, many forest owners don't allow the traditional scraping that brought out the tar. Next weekend, historians will fire up one of America's only remaining turpentine stills to celebrate what was the rural south's wonder product.

"It's been around a long, long time and worth keeping alive and teaching young people that is hasn't always been easy in the world and they need to think about history," explained Jerry Lanigan of the Portal Heritage Society.

The festival starts Saturday, October 2 at 9 a.m. and lasts until dark and Sunday from noon to 5:30pm in downtown Portal.

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