Fall, Fun and Fundraising
In 1978, a Valle Crucis church congregation decided to hold a simple fall festival that would raise money for local charities.
More than 30 years later, the Valle Country Fair has outgrown its small church bazaar status, becoming one of the largest fair events and most successful fundraisers in the High Country.
In 2010, it drew over 10,000 people and raised more than $30,000 for organizations helping people in need.
Presented by the Church of the Holy Cross, the 33rd annual Valle Country Fair will be held during one of the biggest tourism weekends of the year. On Saturday, Oct. 15, fine arts and crafts, the smell of fair food and the sounds of mountain music will fill the chromatic mountain valley field located across the street from the Valle Crucis Conference Center.
Catherine Morton, who has been involved with the fair for more than two decades, called the event a “slice of life.”
“A lot people are visiting the mountains because they want to see the leaves, and they want to have the harvest festival experience with the music, food, crafts and the fall colors,” she said.
These qualities, combined with free admission and a wide variety of high-quality items available for purchase, are to credit for the success of the Valle Country Fair.
The fair features more than 150 distinct exhibitors juried by the Holy Cross congregation. Pottery, paintings, jewelry, woodcrafts and wreaths are among the items picked for this year.
Carolyn Shepherd, co-chairwoman of the fair, said the church only chooses exhibitors with original items. “Everything we have is handmade by the artisans themselves,” she said.
The Valle Country Fair tries to keep it homemade when it comes to the food, as well. The church operates a food booth with items made by members of the church. Among the foods that can be purchased are made-from-scratch Brunswick stew, chili, baked goods and jellies. Apple cider and apple butter, made on site, will also be available.
While visitors are enjoying the eats or perusing the exhibitors, they’ll be entertained by a long list of local performers. Bluegrass groups Carolina Crossing, Creekside Grass, Southern Accent and Green Grass, world folk music group The Mountain Laurels, guitarist Tom Shirley, folk rockers The Major Sevens, storyteller Orville Hicks, the High Country Cloggers and the Appalachian Rhythm Cloggers are all on the schedule for the Valle Country Fair.
There is also an area specialized for children, with alpacas from Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk, face painters, a juggler and clogging performances.
While the Valle Country Fair was created to give people a fun fall festival experience, its main goal is raising money for people in need across the High Country. Walking around the fair, visitors will notice signs with a list of organizations like the Children’s Council of Watauga County, the High Country Caregiver Association and the High Country Relatives as Parents program. They are among the recipients of grants solely generated by sales at the fair.
All exhibitors there agree to give 10 percent of their purchase proceeds to a fund created by the Holy Cross. Every year, a week after the festival, 10 to 15 groups receive grants that range from $500 to $2,000. The recipients are chosen by the church in conjunction with Watauga County Social Services.
Additionally, some of the money is reserved for crisis situations in the community that may occur throughout the year, such as a family that experiences a house fire or needs help paying an electricity bill.
Morton estimates the Valle Country Fair has returned $1.3 to $1.4 million to the community over the last 30 years. She said putting together the fair is hard work for the church congregation, but it’s worth it knowing that they are making a difference.
“We want to be responsible members of our community,” she said “It’s important for our spiritual health to keep us balance and in touch with the needs of others. I think we do good work, and people know that we’re not all talk and we do act on our beliefs.”
Holy Cross puts together the fair and provides the organizational structure, but the amount of money raised is also dependent on attendees, exhibitors and performers, who are willing to come out and support the cause. Fortunately, there is no shortage of people who are eager to help.
Paulette Isaacs, who is a vocalist and bassist in Southern Accent, said the group is appreciative that the whole fair is about charity.
“All the musicians and vendors take that in to account when they decide to participate,” she said. “Especially with the economy being the way it is, this is a wonderful event. You never know when it will come to one of us who will need the help.”
The Valle Country Fair opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but parking is $5 per vehicle. The fair takes place in the field across the street from the Valle Crucis Conference Center, which is located at on N.C. 194 in Valle Crucis.
For more information, call (828) 963-4609 or visit http://www.vallecountryfair.org.