Fall is in the air, and it’s time for the Prater’s Mill Country Fair, Oct. 13-14, at the old water-powered mill near Dalton.
The fair is always on the second full weekend in October.
Begun by volunteers in 1971 to raise funds to restore the 1855 mill and surrounding buildings, the rural festival offers fine art, handmade crafts, and Southern folklore. The event has been a featured destination in the National Geographic Map Guide to Appalachia.
The Prater’s Mill Country Fair focuses on mountain music, Southern foods, living history exhibits, and the handmade crafts and original art of 165 talented artists and artisans.
Crafts demonstrations include blacksmithing, quilting, wood-carving, and hand-tufting, a cottage industry that evolved into the tufted carpet industry centered in Dalton.
At the fair, visitors take self-guided tours including the water-powered, operating grist mill, Shugart Cotton Gin, 1898 Prater’s Store, Doctor Lacewell’s Office, Caboose, Westbrook Barn, and Goodner-Smith Farm Collection. Across the road from the mill is the Prater’s Store. In a cabin near the store, Dalton Pike Church of God members serve authentic Southern meals of chicken and dumplings, collard greens, and cornbread cooked on a wood stove. Elsewhere throughout the fair are other specialties, such as pit-cooked barbecue, fried pies, apple cider, and churned ice cream.
During the fair, families enjoy pony rides, petting zoo, face painting, and “Little Texas” kids’ train ride. Educational exhibits include working antique tractors, antique cars, antique plows, and “Peacock Alley,” a clothesline display of hand-tufted bedspreads. Continuous entertainment will be on stage with Appalachian-style cloggers, as well as country and gospel artists. On the porch of the Mill, you can find dulcimer player Pat Bryant and grandchildren performing with Steve Wixson on rhythm bones.
The Prater’s Mill Country Fair is sponsored by the Prater’s Mill Foundation, a nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to historic preservation and education. Twenty-five civic clubs, churches, and schools also participate in the community event.
Fair hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $7 cash; military with ID plus children 12 and under enter free. Parking and shuttle service is free. Advanced online ticket sales are $7.50 at pratersmill.org/fair. Visitors are urged to dress casually and wear comfortable shoes.
Prater’s Mill is located on Ga. Highway 2, about 10 miles northeast of Dalton, about 30 miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn. Interstate travelers should take I-75 to the Tunnel Hill-Varnell Exit #341; drive north 4.5 miles to the intersection with Highway 2 at Varnell; turn right (at Dollar General), and continue 2.6 miles to the mill, a total distance of 7 miles from I-75. For more information, call 706-694-MILL (6455) or visit pratersmill.org/fair.