Co-founder of Hillbilly Days reflects on how the festival has grown

PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT)- For more than 40 years Hillbilly Days has grown to what it is today, more than 300 vendors in Downtown Pikeville.

In 1977 the first Hillbilly Days festival was held.

"It was wild and willy, but we had a good time," Howard Stratton said.

Stratton was one of the co-founders of the festival.

"And the first Hillbilly Days we became a clan, didn't we Jimmy," Stratton said.

Stratton remembers what it took for them to host the festival so many years ago.

"We had to convince the hillbilly clans and the shrine temple and the mayor and the county judge and the sheriff," Stratton said.

Though it took some convincing Stratton said he knew the festival was something special.

"It started off you, could tell from the first one that it was going to be established," Stratton said.

41 years later Stratton said it amazes him to see how it grew.

"From the first one, we had never had a festival and from the first one to this one, you know," Stratton said.

In 2016 the festival raised around 65,000 dollars for the Shriners Hospital, something Stratton never expected.

"No I really didn't. I figured the festival would grow in number though," Stratton said.

Stratton said the festival is proof of the mountain hospitality.

He said he believes as Pikevile grows the festival will get bigger and better.

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