Always held on the second full weekend in October, the fair is located on the site of the old water-powered grist mill, which still grinds corn the old-fashioned way The mill is located at 5845 Georgia Highway 2.
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 (www.nationalgeographic.com/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 which 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 dumplings, collard greens and cornbread cooked on a wood-burning stove. Elsewhere throughout the festival area are other specialties, such a 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 Alen,” a clothesline display of hand-tufted bedspreads. Nature lovers walk the Norma Gordon Nature Loop and 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 participate in the community event, also.
After the fair is over, regular guided tours of the site (admission charged) will resume on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Prater’s Mill is located at 5845 Georgia Highway 2, 10 miles northeast of Dalton.
For more information, call 706-694-6455 or email: pratersmill@PratersMill.org; website: www.PratersMill.org.