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Entertainment Highlights Heritage at The Valle Country Fair 45th Annual Event Takes Place This Saturday, October 21

The Toe River Drifters from Avery County will be entertaining at the Valle Country Fair for the first time Saturday, October 21. Offering time-honored arrangements of gospel bluegrass and conventional bluegrass music, the group likes to have fun with their music and their audience. (L-R) Charley Ulery on bass, Jamison Burleson on mandolin,  Grayson Stafford on guitar, Cade Tate on guitar, and Jason Carroll on banjo. (Toe River Drifters photo)

VALLE CRUCIS, NC — Entertainment for the Valle Country Fair coming up Saturday, October 21, includes six musical groups performing on the main stage next to the dining tent and eight groups of dancers, story tellers and singers on the lower stage next to the children’s activity area.

Tom and Pamela Shirley of Boone will open the show on the main stage shortly after the opening prayer at 9:00 am. “It is just such a neat spiritual thing to be the act that opens the Fair,” says Shirley. “It is a time when I get to share my heart.”

Next to perform is the Boone Trail Band, comprised of Marlene Crosby of Banner Elk, Christy Rash of Spruce Pine, Tricia Eaves of Johnson City and Lou Hodges of Boone. “We are excited about playing Valle Crucis again,” said Crosby. “The audience is very responsive. People raise their hands and shout out when we ask them questions. It’s fun to play for an audience that is truly engaged.”

The Toe River Drifters are making their first appearance at the Valle Country Fair. “We enjoy an authentic style of acoustic music,” said Grayson Stafford, “which I’m told is what the audience at the Valle Fair wants to hear.

“It’s raw music, nobody is coming in with equipment trying to spiff it up,” Stafford said. Returning for the 45th annual Valle Fair is singer/songwriter Brooks Forsyth of Boone. Having grown up as a member of Holy Cross Episcopal, the church which hosts the Valle Country Fair, Brooks is always excited to return to the main stage.

 A family crowds around to take a selfie with singer-songwriter and Boone native, Brooks Forsyth. Forsyth grew up in Holy Cross Church and first performed at the Valle Fair as a member of the children’s choir. He said, “my first time on the main stage at the Valle Fair felt like hitting the big time!”  (Photo by Catherine Morton)

“When I first started playing the Valle Country Fair as a solo act, I would be offered a slot early in the morning on the youth stage,” Forsyth recalled. “When I finally worked my way up to a mid-day slot on the Main Stage, I knew I had ARRIVED!”

Riding high since winning the 2022 Future Farmers of America (FFA) National Convention Talent Competition, the members of the Boone & Church Band say they love to play the Valle Fair. “It is a great event for a wonderful cause,” said Lynn Church, the oldest of the group and father of two of the fleet-fingered younger members. “Our favorite thing is the audience interaction, followed closely by the fresh apple cider!”

Blind guitar player Jesse Smith of Crossnore and guitarist Walter Foy of Florida and Crossnore are there because they enjoy playing music. “It is quite an experience with all those people,” says Foy. “One time it was raining. It was just miserable, but the place was still packed with people having fun!”

Other treasures of the Appalachian heritage held closely at the Valle Country Fair are shared at the Youth Stage located next to the children’s activity area. Diane Hicks of old Beech Mountain will kick off the day by telling Jack Tales, the River Road Ramblers of Valle Crucis will pick some bluegrass followed by National Clogging Champions, the High Country Cloggers of Boone.

Some people have asked why a Latin dance troupe would perform in the middle of an Appalachian showcase. Elizabeth Elias, director of Las Rosas Y El Clavel, says the children in her troupe love to perform and are excited to share their heritage. A valuable consequence of the group’s participation in the Valle Country Fair is that people in the High Country are becoming more familiar with the troupe. “We are really excited to become more accepted,” Elias said. “We are grateful to become a part of the community.”

Next up are Avery County’s Junior Appalachian Musicians. The Avery JAM are youngsters who are absorbing the traditions of Appalachian music by learning from accomplished adult musicians who give their time to guide the generation that will someday keep mountain music alive.

 Pamela & Tom Shirley have been performing at the Valle Country Fair for over a decade. Shirley says he is humbled that the audience, “can see and man and his wife doing something like this together. I think they get blessed in a way that they didn’t know that they needed.”  (Photo by Ted Moree)

The Avery JAM is followed by another group that holds close to their mountain roots, the Avery Cloggers. Then comes music from Suzie Solomon and her husband of the Carter County, Tenn., hamlet of Buladeen. Finally, Tatum Hicks of Banner Elk closes out the day singing and playing music of the mountains.

Visitors to the 45th annual Valle Country Fair will not lack for great entertainment and the chance to engage with lots of performers who come out to share their love for their mountain heritage. Be it the heritage of the mountains of Appalachia or the heritage of the mountains of Mexico, fairgoers will experience an authentic encounter with traditions that are new and previously unfamiliar. Even if it is only for an afternoon, guests will experience the definition of a “vacation” when they see and do things they cannot encounter in their own back yards.

A single-day harvest festival, the Valle Country Fair is held in a large hayfield located alongside NC Highway 194 between Valle Crucis and Banner Elk. Admission to the Valle Country Fair is FREE and parking is available in the adjoining field for $10 per car, $25 for a small bus or van, and $50 for a motor coach. NO PETS are allowed.

Media sponsors for VCF 2023 are Curtis Media Group and Mountain Times Publications.

The event is produced by Holy Cross Episcopal Church in cooperation with the Valle Crucis Conference Center. Proceeds are used to provide grants to local non-profit organizations, and relief to local families with emergency needs. For more information, contact Holy Cross Church at 828-963-4609 or visit the Fair on the Web at www.vallecountryfair.org.