The celebratory shouts that went up when it was announced that the 2021 Valle Country Fair would be back live and in-person could have rivaled the enthusiasm that burst forth when Noah threw open the doors and let all his passengers off of the ark! Now in its 43rd year, the fun and fellowship enjoyed by the volunteers who put on the Valle Country Fair is almost as meaningful as knowing that their efforts manifest the tagline “Community Supporting Community.”
“A community is about people,” said John Heiss, co-chair of the 2021 Valle Country Fair. “This Fair provides a perfect venue for the people of our community to come together, talk, smile, laugh and enjoy the camaraderie of neighbors, friends and visitors with a common goal — supporting those in need within our community.
“Even though the Fair was “virtual” in 2020,” Heiss continued, “ the outpouring from the community through donations and online sales made it a success.”
Now returning to an in-person event, and in keeping with 43 years of precedent, the Valle Country Fair is held on the third Saturday in October (Saturday, Oct. 16). The festivities spread out across a large hay field on the grounds of the Valle Crucis Conference Center on NC Highway 194. Admission is free and parking is available in the adjoining field for $10 per car. No pets are allowed.
New for 2021 is the addition of a second entrance into the field. During the morning hours, traffic managers will direct vehicles off of NC 194 and onto the fairgrounds via two different portals, meaning that fairgoers should spend considerably less time in traffic waiting to get into the event. When traffic coming into the Fair slows down around mid- day, the second entrance will revert to a second exit, allowing cars departing the fairgrounds to get back on the highway quickly and easily.
One-hundred-fifty craft exhibitors set up tents along wide lanes that meander back and forth between a picturesque red barn and a field of sorghum. Bales of hay are stacked in the intersections of these walkways to offer fairgoers places to sit while they ponder which craft booths to visit next.
Exhibitors submit to a jury process designed to bring together the highest quality handmade crafts available and to assure fairgoers that there is a wide variety of unique products to choose between. As a show of support, exhibitors donate 10% of their earnings back to the charitable work of the Fair.
Two stages host entertainment throughout the day. The stage located near the dining tent showcases the best in local bluegrass, country and gospel music. A second stage located near the Kids’ Activity area features cloggers, magicians and more. Diversions offered in the Kids’ Area include games like Twister and pumpkin bowling, arts and crafts and creating Halloween treats.
Eat all you want at the Valle Country Fair because almost all of the food concessions are operated by the church or by other non-profit organizations that return 100 percent of their earnings to local charities. Tables and chairs are provided under a large tent next to the music stage so that fairgoers can enjoy the entertainment while they dine.
You can take a vacation from cooking on the night of the 16th as well, because the Brunswick Stew, barbecue and chili can all be purchased by the quart for later consumption — as can baked goods, jams & jellies, apple cider and apple butter! Some of the most scrumptious and beautiful cakes to come out of the Valle ovens go up for auction at noon, so don’t miss the entertaining bidding wars!
“To promote the health and safety of our visitors and volunteers, the Holy Cross food tents will, for the first time, be accepting credit cards,” Heiss said. “By establishing a “contactless” credit card portal we can reduce wait times and be mindful of our guests’ COVID-19 concerns.”
In continuing response to the pandemic, sponsors are following state safety guidelines. Organizers increased the number of hand washing stations and hand sanitizing stations placed strategically around the fairgrounds. And, although it is an outdoor event, fairgoers are encouraged to wear masks when shopping in the busy craft booths.
Recipients of the 2021 Valle Country Fair grants are Appalachian Senior Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs, Blue Ridge Women In Agriculture, the Children’s Council, Community Care Givers, High Country Caregivers, the Hunger and Health Coalition, LIFE Village , Mountain Alliance, Parent to Parent Family Support Network, Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center and Watauga County Schools Extended Learning Centers. The outreach committee at Holy Cross Church distributes all remaining proceeds to individuals and families in crisis.
“The origins of the Valle Country Fair are deeply rooted in supporting the community,” said Heiss. “The growth and popularity of this annual event takes the involvement of the entire community. It is not simply a local church event — from exhibitors and musicians, to individual volunteers and donations from local businesses — it takes a village (a community) to generate the joyful celebration that is the Valle Country Fair.”
The single-day harvest festival is held in a large pasture located beside NC Highway 194 between Valle Crucis and Banner Elk. Admission to the 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.
The event is sponsored by Holy Cross Episcopal Church in cooperation with the Valle Crucis Conference Center. All proceeds are used to help the community’s most vulnerable citizens. Media sponsors for VCF 2021 are Curtis Media Group and Mountain Times Publications.
For more information, contact Holy Cross Church at (828) 963-4609 or visit the fair at www.vallecountryfair.org.