October 10, 2013

Prater’s Mill Country Fair set for this weekend

Special to The Daily Citizen

— It’s country fair time at old Prater’s Mill near Dalton on Saturday and Sunday.

Always held on the second full weekend in October, the fair is presented at historic Prater’s Mill, a water-powered grist mill that still grinds corn the old-fashioned way. The mill is at  5845 Ga. Highway 2. Admission is $7, with children 12 and under free.

Begun by volunteers in 1971 to raise funds to restore the 1855 mill and surrounding buildings, the rural festival offers original art, handmade crafts, Southern foods and music. The event is a featured destination in the National Geographic MapGuide to Appalachia.

“The country fair and our tractor club share the goal of preserving the past for the future,” said Mike Trotter, a member of the Peach State Tractor Club. “So come to the fair and don’t miss hearing our antique tractors run.”

Crafts demonstrations include blacksmithing, quilting, wood carving, chair caning and hand tufting, a cottage industry that evolved into the tufted carpet industry centered in Dalton.

At the fair, visitors take self-guided tours of the operating grist mill, the country store, Shugart Cotton Gin and Westbrook Barn, complete with farm animals, a petting zoo and animals to adopt.

Across the road from the mill is the 1898 Prater’s Store. In a cabin near the store, Dalton Pike Church of God members serve authentic Southern meals of chicken and dumplins, collard greens and cornbread cooked on a wood burning stove. Elsewhere throughout the festival area are other specialties, such as pit-cooked barbecue, apple cider and churned ice cream.

During the fair, families enjoy canoeing on the Coahulla Creek, riding the “Little Texas” train and pony rides for the children. Educational exhibits include working antique tractors, antique cars and “Peacock Alley,” a clothesline display of handtufted bedspreads. Nature lovers walk the Norma Gordon Nature Loop and the new Prater’s Mill Greenway.

Continuous entertainment on stage offers Appalachian-style cloggers, a wild animal presentation, the play “The Legend of Charles Prater,” as well as country, bluegrass and gospel artists. Wandering  musicians, dulcimer players and storytellers perform throughout the festival area.

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. Thirty-seven civic clubs, churches and schools also participate in the community event.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Visitors are urged to dress casually and wear comfortable shoes. Parking is free.

After the fair is over, guided tours of the site will resume on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is charged.

Prater’s Mill is 10 miles northeast of Dalton, about 30 miles south of Chattanooga. 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 and continue 2.6 miles to the mill, a total distance of seven miles from I-75.

For more information, call 706-694-MILL (6455), email pratersmill@PratersMill.org or visit www.PratersMill.org.