Prater's Mill in Varnell, Ga., is one of fewer than 1,000 American gristmills still in operation. Upkeep of the 1855 mill is handled by an all-volunteer group known as the Prater's Mill Foundation, with a large portion of its funding derived from an annual country fair.
The Prater's Mill Country Fair marks its 40th anniversary this weekend. It has never lost its focus of celebrating and preserving Southern food, Appalachian music and handmade arts such as quilting, woodcarving and metalworking.
More than 200 craftsmen will display their work Saturday and Sunday at the fair. In addition, there will be plenty of music, an antique tractor and car display, pony rides and, of course, Peacock Alley, a nod to the area's textile history. Three dozen community organizations will have booths in the fair.
All proceeds from this weekend's fair will help fund the repainting of the mill.
"We have to raise the money to paint it. We're too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash," quipped Judy Alderman, foundation president.
30 YEARS AND COUNTING
Three more of this weekend's events are nearing the 40-year milestone. All have built reputations as well-run events with quality merchandise.
* When Hodgepodge began on Signal Mountain in the mid-1970s, organizers said they chose the first weekend of October so their show would be "the first one of the season." Now the craft-show circuit has so expanded that Hodgepodge marks the halfway point.
Hodgepodge opens today at 10 a.m. in the Signal Mountain Community Center. Chairwoman Dawn Skowronnek said merchandise will range from pressed-flower art to holiday decorations to couture aprons. New this year, she said, is a Kids Korner on Saturday only that offers inflatables and crafts.
* The 36th annual Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair opens this weekend, continuing through Oct. 23, in the Gatlinburg Convention Center. Fall's beauty in the surrounding Smoky Mountains, in combination with 200 booths of fine art and handmade crafts, make this a great weekend getaway.
* A closer mountain event, just 30 minutes away, is the 37th New Salem Mountain Festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday. This outdoor festival is held in a wooded setting on Lookout Mountain, rain or shine.
About 100 artists and craftsmen will be exhibiting pottery, furniture, stained glass, jewelry, dog accessories, chimes, holiday decor and other handiwork, said Faye Nichols.
Nichols said a special indoor display will be found in The Mountain Gallery, which showcases some of the best pieces of each exhibitor. Also featured in this gallery will be a memorial to the late Legatha Walston, whom Nichols said was a member of the festival committee and sold her pottery in the show. A collection of her work will be displayed.
New Salem is sponsored by the New Salem Community Improvement Club, and its proceeds benefit the community center and New Salem Fire and Rescue.
ALL ABOUT PUMPKINS
Athens, Tenn.'s big block party, Pumpkintown, takes place Saturday in the downtown square. Chairwoman Meredith Willson says this festival is a celebration of the history, heritage and harvest of East Tennessee.
In addition to pumpkin carving and pumpkin recipe contests, there will be walking tours, craft and food vendors, quilt show, music, Cherokee performers, re-enactors, dogs in costumes and a mutt strut.
FESTIVALS THIS WEEKEND
Arts and Craft Bazaar: First United Methodist Church, 3425 N. Ocoee St., Cleveland, Tenn., 9 a.m.-2 p.m. today and Saturday, free. 423-476-4504.
Craftsmen's Fair: Gatlinburg Convention Center, Gatlinburg, Tenn., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 23, $6 ages 13 and up. 865-436-7479.
Fall Arts in the Park: Blue Ridge, Ga., downtown park, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, $5. 706-632-2144.
Fall Festival: First Christian Church, 650 McCallie Ave., noon-4 p.m. Saturday, benefits Brown Academy elementary school.
Fun Day in the Park: Older American Center, Chickamauga, Ga., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, free, sponsored by Kensington Church of God. 706-931-1414.
Georgia Apple Festival: Ellijay Lions Club fairgrounds, 1729 S. Main St., Ellijay, Ga., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $5 ages 11 and up, $2 parking benefits Boy Scouts. georgiaapplefestival.org.
Georgia Mountain Fall Festival: 1311 Music Hall Road, Hiawassee, Ga., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, continues through Oct. 15, daily music concerts, fiddlers convention. 706-896-4191.
Harvest Festival: Rossville Baptist Tabernacle, corner of Gordon Avenue and Hooker Road, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, free but donations accepted to fill Thanksgiving food baskets for needy, yard sale, gift vendors, bake sale, music, bring lawn chair for seating. 653-7171.
Hodgepodge: Signal Mountain Community Center, Signal Mountain, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today and Saturday, $5, new this year: Kids Korner, $2 on Saturday. www.fallhodgepodge.com.
New Salem Mountain Festival: New Salem Community Center, 12477 Highway 136, on Lookout Mountain between Trenton and LaFayette, Ga., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $5 ages 12 and up. 706-398-1988.
Oktoberfest: Knights of Columbus fairgrounds, 2892 Highway 70 East, 3 miles east of Crossville, Tenn., 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. today, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday, $7.50, German food, music. www.crossvilleoktoberfest.com.
Prater's Mill Country Fair: Prater's Mill, 5845 Highway 2, Dalton, Ga., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $5 ages 13 and up. PratersMill.org
Pumpkintown: Downtown Athens, Tenn., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, free. www.pumpkintownfestival.com.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...