Each year the community of Butler comes alive with a weekend festival celebrating its unique history and heritage. Operated by the Butler Ruritan at Babe Curtis Park, Old Butler Days is well known for its live entertainment, craft vendors, and childrens games. This years festival was bigger and better than ever with narrated boat rides on Watauga Lake, door prizes, a car show, poker run, and a grand prize raffle to win a Mossberg 12 gauge shot gun and a Panasonic 32 inch, flat screen, LCD TV.
Beginning at 12 pm Friday and ending 10 pm Saturday night, many different amateur and professional bands spanning several different music genres took to the main stage at the park, including Cathy Horner, The Roan Mountain Moonshiners, Scotty Norton, Mark Larkins, and Elvis cover artist Brian Keener.
A new addition this year was Kids Corner, a collection of homemade games designed for children of all ages. Each game cost a quarter and guaranteed a prize. Other games, including a dartboard, were supplied by the Butler Volunteer Fire Department, which also oversaw the operation of an inflatable Moonwalk.
Many vendors were set up all around the park selling everything from homemade crafts to satellite TV. One notable booth sported custom made signs, while vendor Cathy Horner displayed pieces of her vintage collage art. Made from papers and magazines dating from the late 19th and early 20th century, these unique works were handmade by Horner for sale at festivals like Old Butler Days. Other vendors included a shop making custom T-Shirts, homemade soap, and moisturizing Shea butter.
Hundreds of sponsors donated door prizes, including tickets to Dollywood and Tweetsie Railroad, which were called out at regular intervals from the stage. The Ruritans sold home cooked food, including full plate dinners, hotdogs, BBQ, and desserts. All proceeds collected by the Ruritan go for various causes around the community and region.
In the past the organization has supported the Boy Scouts, provided assistance to the medically needy, helped fund the Butler Volunteer Fire Department, provided funeral expense assistance, helped fire loss families, and maintained the upkeep on Babe Curtis Park as well as other community parks.
Old Butler Days began decades ago as a reunion of families and individuals who formerly lived in and around the town of Butler. The location of the current community of Butler is actually several miles away from the old town, which now lies under more than 100 feet of water. Plagued by yearly floods from the Watauga River and Roan Creek, the newly created Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided in the early 1940s to build a dam on the Watauga River. Because of the outbreak of World War II the dam was not completed until 1948.
The coming of the lake meant that the town would have to be abandoned, and most of the buildings were moved or torn down. Many of the more than 700 families in Butler resettled in the community of Carderview, which was eventually renamed after the town. A drawdown of Watauga Lake in the early 80s allowed people to view the remains of Old Butler for the first time in decades and sparked an interest in its story that eventually led to the creation of Old Butler Days as well as a museum years later.
Dubbed The Town that Wouldnt Drown, the community, as well as its festival and museum, has struggled to keep the memory of Old Butler alive. A recent addition to Babe Curtis Park includes the relocation of the Stan Stout Store, an original building once moved from Old Butler and now moved back to the modern community. Saved by the Butler Museum, the building will be restored to its original shape and used for various purposes.
As fewer and fewer of the original Butler residents remain to tell the stories of their youth it becomes increasingly significant to maintain what is known of the towns past. However, with the area growing in population each year, and a keen interest in Old Butlers history, the Old Butler Days festival is sure to continue providing a celebration of the areas past and the promise of its future.