In 1978, Church of the Holy Cross, an Episcopal church in Valle
Crucis, held a small community bazaar to raise funds for the remodeling of its parish hall.
Thirty-four years later, the bazaar floods Valle Crucis farmland with more than 10,000 people, on a day that, last year, resulted in $50,000 given to local charities.
This year, the Valle Country Fair will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Valle Crucis Conference Center on N.C. 194. The event is free, with parking at $5 per vehicle and $10 per tour bus.
“It grew from the little fair the first year, because our church has a very strong … mission and outreach committee, so we wanted to use that to give back to the community,” said Carolyn Shepherd, event chairwoman and member of Holy Cross.
On one side of the meadow fairground is a august red barn, and on the other a field of tattered blonde sorghum. Burnt colors of trees spot the mountain, and immediately corralling the fair are fat hay bales.
The fair hosts 150 exhibitor tents, selling pottery, woodwork, art, weavings and metal crafts. Shepherd said that sellers are required to have personally handcrafted the art.
“They are always juried by the (mission and outreach) committee,” she said, “and a number of them have been returning for 20 years.”
Exhibitors also donate at least 10 percent of their earnings back to the charitable work of the fair.
A stage set up near the dining tent features acoustic, bluegrass, country and old-time music.
Shepherd’s husband, Dan, is a member of their church’s house band, Holy Smokes. They will be playing at the fair for the first time.
The youth stage, located near the alpacas, face painters and sand artist booth, features cloggers and many younger performers. Famed storyteller Orville Hicks will be spinning yarns at both stages.
Food concessions include Brunswick stew, barbecue, chili, hot dogs and hamburgers, corndogs, sausage with onions, ham biscuits, ice cream, funnel cakes, baked goods, jams and jellies, fresh-pressed apple cider and hot out-of-the-kettle apple butter.
All food is cooked by church members or local businesses. A large tent next to the music stage shields tables and chairs for diners.
During the fair, for the first time, Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business’ students will conduct a survey. Students of economics professor and department chairman John Whitehead will attend in identifying T-shirts, conducting surveys to measure the economic impact of this fair on Watauga County. The survey is filled out anonymously and can be taken online following the fair. The fair’s website, http://www.vallecountryfair.org, will include a link to the survey.
Holy Cross’s mission and outreach commission’s statement, according to its website, is, “To seek Christ in all persons, answering His call to love others and help those in need.”
This statement helps council the committee in a “narrowing down process,” deciding on exhibitors and which organizations will receive fair funds.
“Monies that aren’t applied to grants go to the mission and outreach fund for the rest of the year,” Shepherd said. “We have social references to people in need in our community – things like heating oil and to help if someone has a power interruption.”
This year’s seven benefiting charities are Avery County Smart Start: A Partnership for Children; Children’s Council of Watauga County; Community Care Clinic; Hospitality House; Parent to Parent Family Support Network; WAMY Avery Youth (Avery Yo!); and Western Youth Network.
For more information, visit http://www.vallecountryfair.org or call Holy Cross Episcopal Church at (828) 963-4609.