Appalachia art and apple cider: Valle Country Fair returns for 43rd year


Jesse Barber

Crowds gather in a field across from Holy Cross Episcopal Church to enjoy vendors, food, and mountain music at the Valle Country Fair on Saturday in Valle Crucis. The Holy Cross Episcopal Church hosted the fair starting in 1979 and host it every third Saturday of October. Vendors are asked to “tithe” 10% of their proceeds to go toward serving nonprofits in the High Country.

Maggie Watts, Reporter

The smell of homemade apple cider wafted through the air on Saturday as patrons browsed artisan tents, while the melodies of live, Appalachia-region music played nearby. The Valle Country Fair returned to Valle Crucis over the weekend for in-person festivities after being virtual last year. 

The Valle Country Fair is a one-day “mountain fall festival” held the third weekend in October each year. This year the fair celebrated its 43rd anniversary, and festivities included around 130 craft exhibitors, freshly-made food, games, live performances and llama visits. The festival uses the phrase “community supporting community.”

“It’s just a matter of hundreds of people coming together to put this event on and making sure that everyone is safe and everything is successful,” said Tracey Heiss, Valle Country Fair co-chair. “Every year we have juried exhibitors, but it’s a little bit less this year because of COVID.”

White tents lined the grounds, hosting various art and food vendors. They sold original photography, pottery, paintings and other handmade goods. 

 North Carolina artists submit their pieces to a jury aiming to pick the highest-quality work for the festival. Of the over 100 artists selected, 29 were Watauga County locals. 

Fresh foods included fudge, apple butter, Brunswick stew and North Carolina mountain-grown apples. The Roll’D Sweets food truck also made an appearance, serving sweet, homemade ice cream. 

Holy Cross Episcopal Church sponsored the event, which gave all its proceeds back to Watauga County community members in need, in addition to 11 grants. Each vendor donated 10% of their earnings to this community as well.

“All the money goes to missions and outreach through Holy Cross Episcopal Church,” Heiss said. “It goes back to helping people in need throughout the year with paying electric bills, or water bills, or rent or things like that.”

Performances by local bluegrass and folk bands took the main stage by a big red barn near the apple cider station. Patrons could listen to the music while they browsed the various tents or watch the performances while eating at nearby covered picnic tables.

This year’s musicians included the Boone & Church Band, the New River Band, the High Country Boomers, Fifteen Strings Attached, solo act Tom Shirley, and the teachers of the Avery Junior Appalachian Musicians.

Pumpkin bowling, Halloween treat-decorating and other fall-themed activity stations provided family-friendly fun near the second stage, where cloggers and square dancers performed. Onlookers cheered for the dancers as they made their way through nearby tents. 

Apple Hill Farm, an alpaca farm in Banner Elk, brought three llamas to the festival to meet the public. Visitors learned about the farm and got to pet the fluffy animals. The llamas were each wearing Halloween-themed bow ties, a nod to the fair’s fall festivities.

Rain sprinkled down on the festivities periodically, ultimately leading to a rainbow shining over the fairgrounds.

“We were going to have a presence, no matter what that presence was,” Heiss said. “We’re thankful this year that we’re able to be live and be on the fairground.”