Fall is in the air and it's time for the annual Prater's Mill Country Fair Oct. 12-13 at the old water-powered mill near Dalton.

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.

Historic Prater's Mill is owned by the people of Whitfield County but operated and maintained by the Prater's Mill Foundation. As a nonprofit volunteer group, the foundation relies heavily on the revenue from the country fair. This is the group's primary fundraising event. All proceeds go back into maintaining the site. The mission of the foundation is to protect, preserve and present the heritage of the Prater's Mill site for future generations.

The Prater's Mill Country Fair focuses on mountain music, Southern foods, living history exhibits and the handmade crafts original art of 170 talented artists and artisans. Crafts demonstrations include blacksmithing, quilting, wood carving, weaving and hand-tufting, a cottage industry that evolved into the tufted carpet industry centered in Dalton.

At the fair, visitors can take self-guided tours of the water-powered, operating grist mill, Shugart Cotton Gin, 1898 Prater's Store, Dr. Lacewell's office, Caboose, Westbrook Barn & 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 barbecue everything, fried pies, apple cider and churned ice cream.

During the fair, families enjoy pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting and the "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. Entertainment will be on stage with Appalachian-style cloggers, as well as country, bluegrass and gospel artists. On the porch of the mill you can find dulcimer player Pat Bryant and grandchildren performing.

Twenty-five civic clubs, churches and schools also participate in the community event.

Fair hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 12 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 13. Adult admission is $7 cash per person per day for adults; children 12 and under are free; military members with ID are free. Parking and shuttle service are free. If you don't have cash, there is now a card option. Text PMTIX to 44321 on your smartphone to purchase advance online tickets ($7.50), or visit pratersmill.org/fair. Visitors are urged to dress casually and wear comfortable shoes.

For more information, call (706) 694-6455 or visit pratersmill.org/fair.

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