By Sherrie Norris
Mountain traditions are known for standing the test of time and at no time is that more evident than the present. As one of the area’s premiere events, the 41st annual Valle Country Fair is just days away and expected once again to draw thousands of visitors to the normally peaceful valley. For one day of the year – always the third Saturday in October – the valley comes alive and practically bursts at the seams for an event that attracts visitors from near and far.
Now in its 41st year, the Valle Country Fair will take over the grounds of the Valle Crucis Conference Center on NC Hwy. 194 in Valle Crucis on Saturday, October 19 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Food, crafts, mountain music, and family fun is what it’s all about, with proceeds benefitting local nonprofit organizations and families in need.
Whether it’s those unique, personalized early Christmas gifts for which you’ve begun searching, or if you have a hankering for live entertainment and/or the traditional barbecue, Brunswick stew, apple cider or apple butter that’s always available, Valle Country Fair really does have something for everyone.
There’s no better place to experience autumn at its finest than in a huge hay field at the heart of Valle Crucis, organizers tell us, which will be easily transformed into a crafter’s paradise, 160 craft exhibitors lining wide lanes that meander back and forth across the grounds. Bales of hay will be scattered about as much-needed rest stops amid the shopping opportunities.
It’s not just any country fair, as most of us already know, as artisans are carefully chosen through a jury process designed to bring together the highest quality handmade crafts available — and to ensure fairgoers of a wide variety of unique products from which to choose.
Two stages will feature some of the area’s most talented performers, with the main stage located near the dining tent showcasing the best in local mountain music.
New to the entertainment line-up this year, and joining other local bands performing on the main stage, is the highly sought after, award winning New River JAM Band, including teen musicians from northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. This group of budding entertainers is part of the Junior Appalachian Musicians program and attracts large crowds wherever they go.
A second stage located near the Kids Activity Area will feature cloggers and other younger performers.
The popular Kids’ Area will keep the little ones occupied with games, pumpkin bowling, arts and crafts and face painting. The youngsters will also have the opportunity to interact with ponies from Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center, and alpacas from the Apple Hill Farm.
Fair food is always a big draw with an assortment of concessions provided mostly by the church or by other non-profit organizations that return a portion of their earnings to local charities.
Available food items will again include the ever-popular Brunswick Stew, barbecue, chili, hot dogs and hamburgers, corndogs, sausages with onions, ham biscuits, ice cream, funnel cakes, baked goods, jams and jellies, freshly pressed apple cider and apple butter cooked on the grounds.
As an added treat, the Brunswick Stew, barbecue and chili can all be purchased by the quart to enjoy later – as can baked goods, jams and jellies, apple cider, and apple butter.
Co-sponsored each year by Holy Cross Episcopal Church and the Valle Crucis Conference Center, this event doesn’t “just happen,” but is basically a year-round project with months of planning and volunteer service required to insure its success.
Organizers remind us that it all began as a bazaar in 1978 as a way to raise funds for community outreach, in line with the mission of Holy Cross that includes a commitment to “share Christ’s love through compassionate ministry.”
A number of fair concessions operated by the church membership give 100 percent of their proceeds to the fair, with other exhibitors asked to “tithe” by donating ten percent of their revenues to the fair.
Through the years, the fair has grown to now welcome thousands of people — and in its first 40 years, has raised more than $1 million for local charities. That’s quite a feat for a hometown fundraiser!
In fact, last year, the fair distributed $40,000 to High Country organizations which serve people in need. Part of the money is disbursed via grants to area ministries and some is retained to be used by the outreach committee throughout the year to assist individuals and families in crisis. Nonprofit groups in Avery and Watauga Counties are always encouraged and welcomed to apply for the grants.
The Valle Country Fair’s 2019 grant recipients were announced in August and including the following:
The Watauga County Children’s Council, the Creative Peacemaker Center, Hunger and Health Coalition, Mountain Alliance, Parent-to-Parent Family Support Network, Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center, W.A.M.Y. Community Action, and the Watauga County Schools Extended Learning Centers.
Upon applying for the grants, each of these organizations agrees to have representative volunteers on hand the day of the fair to help as needed, in addition to providing information about the services they offer.
On behalf of WAMY, Ashley Payne Cook, Director of Development, had this to say: “WAMY Community Action is so honored to receive funding from the Valle Country Fair for our Youth Development Program. This funding gives low- income families the opportunity to have their children attend our Mountain Adventure Days summer camp. This camp allows parents to go to work and not have to worry about the safety and wellbeing of their children. It also provides many fun and educational adventures that otherwise these kids wouldn’t get to experience. The Valle Country Fair has been such a big supporter of ours over the years and we are so thankful for their heart for our community!”
Kaaren Hayes, Director of the Parent-to-Parent Family Support Network, shares her thoughts on behalf of her organization: “I love the Valle Country Fair… the people, the energy, working at the chili booth. It is so much fun! Parent to Parent FSN-HC supports families who have children with special needs and we are so grateful for the continued support that we have received from the fair. It is heartwarming to be at the fair and be a part of a community of people who care and are making a difference in so many lives.”
Mark your calendars now and plan to have a great day with family and friends, while supporting many worthy causes across the High Country. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!
Admission to the fair is free and parking is available in the adjoining field for $10 per car. Please remember, no pets are allowed.
For more information, contact Holy Cross Church at 828-963-4609 or www.vallecountryfair.org.