The high country is home to a variety of colorful fall festivals. Each year we look forward to two special events: the Valle Country Fair and the Woolly Worm Festival. The hard part is choosing which festival to attend! Both fall festivals happen at the same time every year, and this year they’re both happening on the weekend of Saturday, October 19th. The third week of October also happens to be peak week for fall color in Boone. While these festivals are both technically located in areas with slightly higher elevations, chances are you’ll see some great color there, too. There’s truly no better time to visit the high country. Read on to learn more about two of the best fall festivals in the NC mountains.
Valle Country Fair
This year marks the 41st year of the Valle Country Fair. Nestled in a sprawling hayfield surrounded by misty mountaintops covered in the rich golds and reds of autumn, this festival is held in one of the most scenic areas of the high country: Valle Crucis, of course. The fair features over 160 craft exhibitors — and these aren’t just run-of-the-mill crafts. Artisans submit their work to a jury process intended to select the best of the best. And the committee delivers.
All art featured at this fair is original, and is handmade by the exhibitor. Artists and makers even donate 10% of their profits back to fair charities. The Valle Country Fair is the perfect place to do some early holiday shopping, too. Feel good about your purchase because you’re supporting a local artist and keeping money in our local economy. In turn, this helps our community thrive!
The Valle Country Fair also has some of the best fair food in the region. The food concessions at the fair are run by the church, Holy Cross Episcopal Church, that sponsors the fair in conjunction with the Valle Crucis Conference Center. One hundred percent of the profits made by food sales go to support local charities. Think homemade Brunswick Stew, simmered low and slow all afternoon. Think apple butter, right out of the pot. The cakes and pies at this fair are rumored to be some of the best in the region, too.
Enjoy live mountain music while your browse the fair. Two stages are set up and performers are scheduled to provide entertainment throughout the entire festival. From traditional bluegrass and old-time country music, to clogging and storytelling, there’s something for everyone at this mountain festival.
We advise arriving early to beat the traffic, and we highly suggest carpooling. The festival lasts all day, from 9am until 4pm. There is no fee to enter the festival, but parking does cost $10 per personal car, $25 per van, and $50 per motor coach. All of the proceeds from parking go to support local charities.
Pick your own Pumpkin
Finish your day in the Valle by stopping by one of our favorite pumpkin patches: Harvest Farm. They have one of the area’s most beautiful pumpkin displays in a gorgeous, old, open air barn. This working farm features sprawling, picturesque fields of pumpkins ripening on the vine. Bring your camera! You can pick your own pumpkin off the vine, or you can choose an heirloom variety from their display. They offer hayrides and a corn maze, too.
Woolly Worm Festival
The Woolly Worm Festival has been drawing people to the high country for 42 years. This festival has grown so much over the years, and now it brings roughly 20,000 people to the area. Chances are you’ve probably never heard of a Woolly Worm Festival. It’s true: this festival is unique to our area. So, what is it?
Local legend says you can predict the severity of winter weather by looking at a woolly worm. The worm has roughly 13 segments of black and brown, which correspond to the 13 weeks of winter. The lighter the brown, the milder that week of winter is said to be, whereas the darker blacks and browns indicate more snow and colder weather.
Back in the late ‘70s the festival founder, Jim Morton, noticed that most woolly worms have different patterns. Naturally he asked the question: which woolly worm do you look at? That’s when the idea of the Wooly Worm Festival was born. The festival races wooly worms, and anyone can enter. You just have to have a wooly worm. The worms race up pieces of string – all day – until only the fastest worm remains. The fastest worm is said to be the one that predicts the weather for the upcoming winter. Plus, if your worm wins you’ll get to enjoy a $1,000 cash prize.
The festival features crafts, food vendors, live entertainment, and lots of dancing. The festivities begin Saturday morning at 9am in downtown Banner Elk, NC. This festival is a two day event, and festivities begin on Sunday at 9am as well. The festival costs $6 for adults and $4 for kids 6-12, and is free to kids under 6. The cost of admission goes back into the community, supporting local schools, kid’s programs, and small business development, and tourism in Avery county.
What are you waiting for…
Can’t make it this year? Plan for next. It’s a busy weekend in the high country, but these fall festivals really are worth a trip. Stay with us at The Horton and enjoy the crisp, fall air on our rooftop lounge. Wrap up in a cozy blanket and soak up the warmth from our fire sphere, all while sipping a hot toddy. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss.
Author: Megan Biddix
Sources: https://www.vallecountryfair.org/ & http://www.woollyworm.com/