Oconee History Museum Launches Digital Exhibit Series – “Why We Celebrate”

Oconee History Museum, in partnership with Lake Hartwell Country, has created a new digital exhibit series called Why We Celebrate.  This project explores the history and culture of Mountain Rest’s Hillbilly Day, Westminster’s Apple Festival, and Walhalla’s Oktoberfest.  Each digital exhibit will include photographs, programs, memorabilia, oral histories and much more showcasing the history and origins of each festival. Funds for “Why We Celebrate” were awarded to Oconee History Museum through a Growth Grant from South Carolina Humanities, www.schumanities.org. Funding for the Growth Grants has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“For 50 to 60 years now these festivals have been living reminders of Oconee County’s history and culture, but often newcomers and visitors don’t recognize why we celebrate.  Of course we sorely missed these celebrations during the pandemic, and so we wanted to do our part to help preserve the history of these festivals and promote them during this period of recovery as we all work to reconnect with the public,” said museum Director/Curator Leslie Hagerty.

Why We Celebrate:  Hillbilly Day is the first digital exhibit in this series.  Hillbilly Day has been hosted on July 4th since the early 1960s.  Hillbilly Day is a reflection and celebration of the character and culture of the Mountain Rest community – a community long characterized by a unique blend of Appalachian independence and Southern hospitality. The digital exhibit is available here: https://www.oconeehistorymuseum.org/hillbilly-day/. The Oconee History Museum will host a program on Thursday, June 23 at 7:00 p.m. for Why We Celebrate: Hillbilly Day. Oconee History Museum’s Director/Curator Leslie Hagerty will discuss the history and culture of the Mountain Rest community that has inspired Hillbilly Day for over 60 years.

Why We Celebrate: South Carolina Apple Festival is the second digital exhibit in the series. The South Carolina Apple Festival is celebrated in Westminster and Long Creek, South Carolina during the week following Labor Day each year. The digital exhibit is available here: https://www.oconeehistorymuseum.org/south-carolina-apple-festival/. The Oconee History Museum will host a public program on August 25, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. during which the Director/Curator Leslie Hagerty will showcase the history of apples in Oconee and share memories of the South Carolina Apple Festival. Learn more here.

Why We Celebrate: Oktoberfest is the third digital exhibit in the series. Each year since 1979, Walhalla residents and visitors have donned their dirndls and lederhosen during the 3rd weekend of October for Walhalla’s Oktoberfest to celebrate and share the town of Walhalla’s unique German history and heritage. The Walhalla Oktober Fest will be October 21-23, 2022.  A public program will also be held at Oconee History Museum in Walhalla on Thursday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m. The program will explore the German history of Walhalla and the origins of Oktoberfest in more depth.

You can view the Why We Celebrate exhibits and learn more about museum programs and festival details at https://www.oconeehistorymuseum.org/learn/why-we-celebrate/.

The Oconee History Museum actively preserves and promotes the history and cultural heritage of Oconee County, South Carolina, through its museums, programs, and community outreach. Visitors can explore the history of Native Americans, immigration, railroads, New Deal programs, textile mills, agriculture and much more as it relates to Oconee County. 

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 21-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.