For 38 years, Jim Boring encouraged the Prater’s Mill Foundation in its efforts to preserve the historic mill and organize the annual country fair there.

“We would talk to him about one of our crazy ideas, like moving a cotton gin from Cohutta to the mill, and he’d not only encourage us, he’d be right in the middle of it,” said foundation president Judy Alderman.

Boring, who passed away last year, owned the site of the mill, built in 1855, with his brother Ken. And Alderman said the volunteers at the foundation thought it was only appropriate to dedicate this year’s fair, which is Saturday and Sunday, to Jim Boring.

The entertainment this year will be dedicated to Rich Streeter, whom Alderman described as the troubadour of Prater’s Mill.

“He was a songwriter, storyteller, historian and a talented musician,” she said.

Streeter, who passed away earlier this year, wrote ballads that told stories of the area, such as the “Legend of Charles Prater.” He also put together the “Official Prater’s Mill and Farm History Researchers Workbook.”

There will be a musical tribute to Streeter on the Coca-Cola Stage from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Last year, the fair attracted more than 9,100 visitors, vendors and volunteers. Foundation officials hope this year’s fair will draw at least as many. They already have some 200 vendors from across the country signed up.

Betty Smith Bowlin, a long-time volunteer whose family donated a collection of antique farm tools and clothing to the foundation, will have her book “Mother Always Said” available at the fair for $5.

“Whenever we were working out here, I was always telling them, ‘Well, mother said so and so.’ And Judy told me, ‘Why don’t you write down all of those things your mother always said?’ That’s how it started,” she said.

Fair director Sherry Sexton says it takes a year to put the fair together.

“We are energized this year. Each fair has its own personality, its own energy,” Alderman said. “This year the slogan is ‘There is genius here.’ We are trying to introduce people to the genius that is here locally.”

Alderman said the idea for the fair came about 39 years ago, when Jane Harrell said that the key to preserving the mill was to make it famous. That effort has paid off, she said, noting that a Google image search uncovers hundreds of photographs of the site, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The question now is ‘Is Prater’s Mill famous enough to save itself?’” she said.

The foundation’s lease of the site ends at the end of the year.

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners member Harold Brooker says the county is trying to acquire the 18-acre site and dedicate it to Jim Boring.

“We are putting our best effort forward, and I feel pretty confident we can do it,” he said.

He said he received a letter Tuesday from the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills, expressing its desire that the mill be maintained.

Alderman says foundation members hope that the mill will be preserved as a historic site, but they aren’t letting their concerns get in the way of putting on this year’s fair.

“The volunteers have an indomitable spirit. This is a celebration, and if it’s the last one, then it’s the last one,” she said.



The Prater’s Mill Country Fair will be Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Prater’s Mill is at 5845 Highway 2, Dalton. From I-75, take the Tunnel Hill-Varnell exit (Exit 341) and drive north on Highway 201 4.5 miles, turn right on Highway 2 and drive 2.6 miles to Prater’s Mill. From Dalton, drive north on the Cleveland Highway to Varnell and turn right on Highway 2. Admission is $5 for ages 13 and up. For a full schedule of events, go to www.PratersMill.org.

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