What a fabulous festival we had this year! The weather was absolutely perfect with dewy mornings, cool enough for sitting and sipping hot cocoa and coffee around early morning bonfires. The afternoons were sunny and warm, with just enough breeze to keep us from overheating; although it was a bit capricious in blowing our posters around. But, not to worry, good mountain women always travel with duct tape.
Our over-the-hill neighbors were beneath a tree just behind me with their horseshoe and other iron art. They are the quintessential farm family with three generations all working toward keeping their house in order. There were four generations until the death of a grandmother last year. Lots of crafts, cooking, and canning go on in that house, and lots of wood cutting, gardening, and welding goes on outside and in their outbuildings. Their granddaughters are already in training, helping with everything from picking peas to helping at the sales tent.
The twelve-year-old Cassie is never still, volunteering at one booth and another, from selling raffle tickets benefiting Quilts For Kids to assisting with gold panning at the booth of her twin schoolmates. Even with all this, she managed to be voted the Autumn Gold Festival Queen, which is judged on Early American costume authenticity and poise, rather than beauty and popularity. Since her granny didn't even know about the festival until half an hour before sign-up ended, this miracle was assisted by Cassie's guardian angel Nancy and a vendor selling authentic costumes. Cinderella's fairy godmother never had better magic!
Crafty Dave, originally from Coker Creek, but now living in the same Atlanta suburb as my daughter, donates the most adorable white, flop-eared rabbits as prizes for the festival princesses. He takes special orders, so I'm hoping he'll make me some as grandchild Christmas gifts.
Jack's friend came up from Copperhill to help him hawk his book. We were delighted that he asked us to put her up for the weekend. This is how old-time mountain people put their friends up; they wouldn't ever ask someone that they didn't accept as their own family to welcome one of their friends. The added benefit of us housing his friend is that Jack finally made his way over to our house for supper. We've been inviting him for four years, but mountain folk don't like to impose. Now that he knows the way, there'll be no excuse for him not being a regular at our table.
Some of the coolest old equipment is actually working on the fairgrounds: a grist mill grinding grits and cornmeal; a free-standing power water pump on a wagon, powered by a tractor motor, with an old-fashioned well spout; an actual crank-powered sewing machine joining quilt fabric bits together. Another bit of equipment that's pure whimsy on the part of a loving Paw-Paw is the firetruck tricked out as an ice cream and root beer float production unit. How delightful is it to be a kid standing at the end of a conveyor belt coming off the rear of Paw-Paw's real firetruck, receiving you favorite frozen confection, made by Grandma and Paw-Paw?
I couldn't (or didn't) resist taking home a couple of adult bibs, made with colorful fabric on one side and terrycloth on the other. The Italians and Cajuns in New Orleans could make good use of these for eating spaghetti and barbecue shrimp. This is in addition to all the people we know with bed and wheelchair bound relatives and friends, and those who don't want jelly from their drive-thru biscuit breakfast to be worn on their ties or blouses to their important business meetings.
A booth of pure whimsy was run by a couple, she a painter and her husband an "imagineer." Many of Santa' sleigh stuffers came from this couple, from mice made out of rocks, to a piece of landscape stone transformed into a colorful Koi pond by the power of the painter. The husband's imaginings come to "life" made me laugh out loud, like the walking cane with a putter as its handle and the Harry Potter wands. His spears and arrows were so well-done that I dared not purchase them for the wild one's on our Christmas list. Talk about "putting an eye out!"
The Ruritans sold out of food each day. The barbecue is donated by a fellow in Knoxville, and is my favorite food at the fair. Trusty Richard stood and collected the cash for eight hours each day; I just don't know how he stays still so long. He says he occupies himself with people watching, and there were a lot of people to peruse.
This is fall festival season, so there will be other fairs in my and Jack's future, like the Buzz Fest next weekend at Kefauver Park and the Tellico Plains Leaf Turning Festival two weekends from now. We live in a great hub for fest hopping; along with the Buzz Fest we'll be attending Charlie and Deborah's chili cook-of next week-end with one of my high school buddies. And hopefully, Jack's friend will come back.
Fall is really great fun around here even without factoring in all the leaf-peeping and overnight guests.