The 43rd annual Valle Country Fair returns live on Saturday, Oct. 16, when the community gathers for a crafts festival in the large hayfield across NC 194 from the Valle Crucis Conference Center to raise money for people in need.
Like the neighbors that volunteer to serve sausages, bake cakes and stir apple butter, more than half a dozen bluegrass, country and gospel groups donate their time and talent to entertain fairgoers and supply the background music for this famous fall fundraiser.
“For me, and I think for the other musicians, I like being part of a real community celebration,” singer-songwriter Brooks Forsyth of Boone said. “The musicians who volunteer to play the Valle Country Fair could easily get paying gigs on the third Saturday in October. Choosing instead to perform at the Valle Country Fair lets us become part of the long-honored tradition of giving back.”
Having grown up at Holy Cross Episcopal, the church that puts on the Valle Country Fair, Forsyth has been performing for Valle Country Fairgoers since before the turn of the last century. “I had to work my way up to playing the main stage during prime time,” Forsyth teases. “I had to pay my Valle Fair dues!
“I started out singing with a church group when the event was still at the Apple Barn,” Forsyth added. “Next I performed with a magician, sort of as a prop. I eventually worked my way up to the clogger’s stage, performing at 8 a.m. I remember my first time on the main stage felt like hitting the big time!”
The music starts at 9 a.m. with the High Country Boomers. Farrell Sheppard of Vilas and Kathy Burton of Banner Elk chose the name because they sing songs from the 1950s through today, songs familiar to babies and to “baby boomers.” The Boomers combine well-blended voices with the bluegrass musicianship of Sheppard on the guitar and Burton picking the square-neck Dobro.
Boone native Tom Shirley performs Americana music with a Christian influence. With his energized mix of original songs and covers of rock n’ roll classics, Shirley has been pleasing crowds at the Valle Country Fair for years.
Merging two Avery County families (brothers Colton, Walker and Jaxton Boone and Lynn Church with his sons Ethan and Eli), the Boone & Church Band inspires audiences with their bluegrass gospel and amazes them with their lightning-fast bluegrass instrumentals.
The New River Band features, from Durham, Clint Brooks on vocals, guitar and fiddle; from Chapel Hill, Nat Smith on upright bass and John McNeal on vocals and guitar; and from Carrboro, Al Segars on banjo. The band’s heart and soul is Appalachian Bluegrass and Folk Music, but it is not uncommon to hear a Beatles or Rolling Stones song played “bluegrass style” in their set.
Old-time tunes are the strength of Fifteen Strings Attached, a Boone trio comprised of Mike McKee on guitar, Noah Williams on fiddle and Grayson McGuire on banjo.
Rounding out the music-packed day are the Avery JAM Teachers. JAM, the Junior Appalachian Musicians is an after-school program for grades 4 to 12 that introduces music through small group instruction on Appalachian instruments. The JAM teachers performing at the Fair, including Bobbie Willard, Jennifer Moore, Karen Magner, Greyson Wickel, Floyd Townsend and Dwight Woody, love Appalachian music with a passion and dedicate their free time toward passing that passion down to another generation of Appalachian children. Along with preserving our Appalachian culture, experience shows that discovering their musical heritage helps the youngsters develop pride in their Appalachian roots while the one-on-one focus of adults like the Avery JAM Teachers helps youths build confidence and self-esteem.
Together, the musicians performing at the 2021 Valle Country Fair encapsulate the community driven values of the Appalachian Mountain culture being celebrated at the Valle Country Fair.
“The Fair sponsors truly appreciate these musicians donating their time and their talent to this cause,” said Floyd Townsend, Chairman of the Valle Fair Music Committee. “The performers do it to give back to the community, but they also get a lot of enjoyment in return for playing in front of this generous and enthusiastic audience.”
The mission of the Valle Country Fair is to raise funds for charitable organizations and church outreach in Avery and Watauga counties. In its first 40 years, the Valle Fair raised more than $1 million to help people in need.
The Valle Country Fair will be held on Saturday, Oct. 16, 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. Sorry, but no pets are allowed at the Fair.
The event is sponsored by Holy Cross Episcopal Church in cooperation with the Valle Crucis Conference Center. All proceeds are used serving people who need assistance. For more information, contact Holy Cross Church at (828) 963-4609, or click to www.vallecountryfair.org for the complete schedule of performances and fair updates.
Media sponsors for VCF 2021 are Curtis Media Group and Mountain Times Publications.