Gold Rush Festival organizers are making a new push to take the focus of the celebration back to the city’s gold-mining roots by bringing a bit of the pioneer spirit downtown. As part of that, this year’s “Battle of the Bands” at The Mill amphitheater will feature only bluegrass bands.
The festival will be held downtown all Saturday and into the night.
Instead of keeping all of the pioneer-type displays at the Pine Mountain Gold Museum, some of those will be brought downtown to be interspersed with the festival’s vendors.
“We want to get back to our roots,” said Main Street Manager Kimberly Stovall. “The city’s known for gold so we want the Gold Museum to have a much bigger presence. We want it to be a learning experience for children and those who may be visiting or just moved to Villa Rica and don’t quite know about our town. This is going to be a great way to start.”
The festival begins with the traditional 5K Road Race at 8:30 a.m. followed by the parade at 10 a.m. through downtown, beginning at Happy Valley Baptist Church. This year’s parade will include churches, Shriners, businesses and civic groups.
The grand marshal for this year’s parade is Villa Rica resident Joe Dan “Doc” Worley, a medically retired Navy corpsman who was seriously wounded in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq.
Worley, a Mirror Lake resident, was serving in Iraq as an infantry platoon medic in Second Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, when his unit came under attack on Sept. 17, 2004, while on patrol. The attack began when an IED exploded into a Humvee, killing a Marine and Iraqi interpreter.
When the attack occurred, Worley went into autopilot, grabbed his medical aid bag and took off toward the thick smoke. As he sprinted across a bridge, a secondary IED exploded only a few feet away, ripping off his left leg instantly. Even so, he ignored the pain and began to assess and treat his own injuries by applying a life-saving tourniquet above the knee on his injured leg.
Still focused on getting to his injured Marines and ignoring enemy AK-47 assault rifle rounds all around his exposed position, Worley attempted to crawl forward toward the vehicle when again his movement was stopped by the sharp twinge of five enemy rounds tearing into his right leg.
When his Marines were able to achieve fire superiority and control the battle space around the vehicle, and extract the injured, Worley continued to give first aid instruction in attempts to treat his buddies who were gravely wounded.
Doc Worley underwent 19 months of surgeries and rehabilitation at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals. He is a founding member of Vets for Freedom. For his actions, he was awarded the Purple Heat and the Bronze Star for Valor.
During, and immediately following the parade, arts, crafts and food vendors will be set up along Main Street and stay there until 4 p.m. Entertainment will begin at 12:30 p.m. at The Mill with local dance troupes, the Gold Rush Pageant and a skit by the performers of Rocky Branch Railroad called “Jail Break.” The Battle of the Bands will begin at 7 p.m. with the Battle of the Bands running until 10 p.m. The winner of the Battle of the Bands will be the one which garners the most $1 votes.
“You can vote as many times as you like and at the end of the night we’re going to announce the best band,” Stovall said.