Editorial: After a year hiatus, the Prater's Mill Country Fair returns this weekend for its 50th anniversary

After being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Prater's Mill Country Fair on the mill's grounds in Varnell returns Saturday and Sunday just in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Prater's Mill is recognized as one of the best fall festivals in the South, and we are happy to see it return after missing last year. 2020 marked the first time since 1971 the fair wasn't held.

The fair is a true representation of Appalachia featuring mountain music, Southern foods, living history exhibits and handmade crafts and art items of many talented artists and artisans. There will be plenty of live demonstrations, from blacksmithing to wood carving to hand-tufting, which was the foundation of the tufted carpet industry that turned Dalton into the "Carpet Capital of the World."

The festival happens against the background of the red and white water-powered mill known for decades as Prater's Mill, which was built in 1855. The mill fell into disrepair, so in 1971 volunteers started the festival to raise money to restore the mill and surrounding buildings.

Years later, those volunteers were successful. We as a community are blessed to have a restored, vibrant Prater's Mill area highlighted by the country fair during the second weekend in October.

In addition to the mill, visitors can tour the Shugart Cotton Gin, 1898 Prater's Store, Dr. Lacewell's office, Caboose, Westbrook Barn & Goodner-Smith Farm collection and the Prater's Store.

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. Visit pratersmill.org/fair for more information. Visitors are advised to dress casually and wear comfortable shoes.

Fair Director Mikey Sims said organizers deliberated long and hard about whether to go forward with the fair this year. He said it will be a little bit smaller than past fairs.

"Pre-COVID we decided to require all of the food vendors to have hand sanitizer available and visible for public use," Sims said. "That was already in place. We have a running water hand-washing station with soap and paper towels."

History abounds at Prater's Mill. And this weekend, arts, crafts, singing, dancing and plenty of scrumptious fair food will abound. We hope you are able to attend and celebrate 50 wonderful years of the Prater's Mill Country Fair.

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