With 12 festivals on tap this weekend, not including the finale of RiverRocks, visitors are offered a variety of entertainment from old-fashioned farm fun to German Oktoberfests to small-town harvest celebrations.
• The second weekend of October means it's time for the Prater's Mill Country Fair, which is held on the grounds of the 1855 water-powered grist mill.
Visitors to Prater's will park in fields near the fair site and catch a shuttle that drops them off right at the gates. The festival spreads across both sides of Georgia Highway 2. On the mill side, visitors will find rows of nearly 200 food and craft vendors. On the opposite side of the road is the 1898 Prater's Store, antique tractors and cars, and an entertainment stage.
Since the fair began 41 years ago, it has served as a fundraiser to maintain the historic mill and restore surrounding buildings on the mill property. In keeping with this nod to historic preservation, visitors can enjoy demonstrations of skills such as blacksmithing, quilting, woodcarving and hand-tufing. The latter was the forerunner of Dalton's tufted carpet industry. Jeanette Coker, 68, will be demonstrating this dying art to fairgoers.
"I grew up on the famous Peacock Alley (a nickname of Highway 41), where colorful bedspreads flopped in the wind on both sides of the road," she said in a news release.
Prater's offers all types of family fun from canoeing the Coahulla Creek, riding the Little Texas train or pony rides to crafts, cloggers and strolling musicians.
• Pumpkintown in Athens, Tenn., is a slice of Americana straight from a Norman Rockwell picture. Food and craft vendors are spaced along the streets surrounding the town square. Pumpkins, hay bales, bows and cornstalks decorate many of these vendors tents.
The festival will kick off with the Mutt Strut and Doggie Costume Contest at 10:15 a.m. in front of Happy Hounds on Washington Street. Parade organizer Jessica O'Bringer said anyone can strut their mutt in the parade around the courthouse square, but there is a $5 fee for the costume contest. Proceeds will benefit the McMinn Regional Humane Society.
According to festival chairwoman Meredith Willson, there will be friendly competitions, including returning favorites such as the pumpkin pie contest and pumpkin-carving contest, along with new tests of skill: pickleball and cornhole tournament.
Live music and entertainment can be found on several stages. The event will include walking tours, two quilt shows, petting zoo, antique tractor display and American Indian dancers.
• The 38th New Salem Mountain Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday. It's put on by the New Salem Community Improvement Club, and all the proceeds are pumped back into the New Salem Community Center and the New Salem Fire and Rescue Department.
This festival's wooded setting is a popular way to enjoy fall's beauty (rain or shine) with a short ride up Lookout Mountain. About 100 artists will be exhibiting, all of them screened to assure quality work is offered visitors.
Each year, a featured exhibit is held inside The Mountain Gallery, showcasing the work of one artist but including examples of the best work of each outdoor exhibitor. Ringgold, Ga., painter Jan Coulter Harless, known for her wildlife images, will be this year's featured artist.
In addition to the usual festival food, home-cooked dishes will be sold by the women of New Salem United Methodist Church.
There will be live entertainment and door prizes given away throughout each day.
FESTIVALS THIS WEEKEND
• Bark in the Park: Heritage Park, intersection of Jenkins and East Brainerd roads, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, free community festival. firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Craftsmen's Fair: Gatlinburg Convention Center, 920 Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tenn., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $6 ages 13 and older. Continues through Oct. 28. More than 180 craftsmen. 865-436-7479.
• Ellijay 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 older; antique car show Saturday in Civic Center. georgiaapplefestival.org.
• Fall Craft Fair: Front Street on the depot lawn, Spring City, Tenn., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, free. springcitychamberofcommerce.com.
• Georgia Mountain Fall Festival: Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, Hiawassee, Ga., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, $5 gate without music shows, $10 in addition to gate with music shows, $2 parking. Continues through Oct. 21 georgiamountainfairgrounds.com.
• Harvest of Art Show & Sale: Rhea County Welcome Center, corner of Highway 27 and 107 Main St., Dayton, Tenn., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Saturday, free. Annual show and sale of work by members of the Dayton Arts League. 775-5122.
• New Salem Mountain Festival: New Salem Community Center, 12477 Highway 136, Lookout Mountain, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $5 ages 12 and older. 706-398-1988.
• Oktoberfest: Chattanooga Market, First Tennessee Pavilion, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, free. See story Page 9.
• Oktoberfest: Knights of Columbus grounds, 2892 Highway 70 East, three miles east of Crossville, Tenn., 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. today, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday, $7.50 ages 15 and older per day. 931-707-7291.
• Prater's Mill Country Fair: Prater's Mill, Highway 2, 10 miles north of Dalton, Ga., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $7 ages 13 and older. 706-694-MILL.
• Pumpkintown: Downtown square, Athens, Tenn., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, free, contests, mutt strut, crafts on streets around square. www.pumpkintownfestival.com.
• Tennessee Fall Homecoming: Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Tenn., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday. One-day ticket is $30 adults, $15 ages 13-18 and $10 ages 5-12. Two-day ticket is $55 adults, $30 teens, $20 ages 5-12. Weekend pass is $75 adults, $45 teens, $30 ages 5-12. www.museumofappalachia.org.
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 ...