The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Traditional Bluegrass Music
At The 44th Annual Valle Country Fair on Saturday, October 15
VALLE CRUCIS, NC — For 44 years the Valle Country Fair has been honored that country,
gospel, folk, and bluegrass groups from all parts of the High Country have given up a
mid-October Saturday to provide the soundtrack that makes the overgrown church bazaar
an authentic celebration of mountain life expressed through crafts, food and music.
Although the lineup of musical performers for 2022 perform in a healthy mix of genres,
the number and quality of bluegrass artists entertaining this year offer fairgoers a
backstage pass to the excitement that can be coaxed from the banjo, mandolin, guitar,
bass and fiddle.
The 44th annual Valle Country Fair rolls out on Saturday, October 15 when the community
gathers to raise money for neighbors in need with a harvest season crafts festival in the
large hayfield across NC 194 from the Valle Crucis Conference Center. Like the folks that
volunteer to serve BBQ and Brunswick Stew, bake cakes and stir apple butter, more than
half a dozen bluegrass, country, gospel and folk groups donate their time and talent to
supply the background music for this popular fall fundraiser.
“The Valle Country Fair is very welcoming,” said Lynn Church of the Boone and Church
Band. “Last year was a great experience for us. It was where we had probably our best
crowd response ever.”
Comprised of four high school students (Eli Church, Ethan Church, Colton Boone, and
Jaxton Boone), one resent graduate balancing college courses with a part time job
(Walker Boone) plus one tag-along Dad (Lynn Church), the Boone & Church Band inspires
audiences with bluegrass gospel standards like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and
amazes the crowds with lightning-fast breakdowns and fiddle tunes.
Describing Boone & Church’s instrumentals as lightning-fast fast is not hyperbole. Valle
Fairgoers who catch their performance this year are sure to give the band the same rapt
attention and appreciative response that left such an impression on the band last year.
Boone natives Kathleen Burnett Ray (guitar) and Anissa Burnett (fiddle), began playing
bluegrass instruments in grade school as part of the Junior Appalachian Musicians after
school program. Now graduates of the East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Oldtime, and Roots Music Studies Program, the duo are as comfortable performing covers of John Prine and Neil Young as they are with the bluegrass, classic country, and old-time
music they grew up on. But don’t let their pretty faces fool you. These ladies can singe
the strings on multiple Appalachian instruments when bluegrass is called for.
The Boone Trail Band is also preserving the old time tones of the Southern Appalachians.
With Lou Hodges on upright bass, Marlene Crosby on accordion and guitar, Tricia Eaves
on mandolin and guitar, Farrell Shepherd on mandolin and guitar and Christy Rash on
banjo, The Boone Trail Band predominantly plays bluegrass and classic country music.
With a sound centered in bluegrass, old-time music, ballads, jigs and reels, the Guilty
Pleasures band travels up the mountain from the Orange and Chatham County areas of
North Carolina. Band members John McNeal (guitar), Nat Smith (bass), Meredith Nye
(fiddle) and Tim Stambaugh (banjo, dobro) have played everything from country to funk
to punk to jazz before returning to their musical roots.
Other performers offering additional varieties of music include Boone native Tom Shirley
and his band. Performing Americana music with a Christian influence, Tom’s energized
mix of original songs and covers of rock n’ roll classics has pleased the crowd at the Valle
Country Fair for years
Singer-songwriter Brooks Forsyth of Boone grew up in the church that organizes the Valle
Country Fair. Now a Nashville recording artist whose musical style encompasses a
variety of genres within Americana, Brook spends much of the year traveling the
country, but each year he returns to the Valle Country Fair and the community that raised
Crossnore, NC’s Jesse Smith and snow bird Walter Foy perform from a variety of musical
traditions, including blues from the 1920’s to today. A songwriter and studio musician,
Smith descends from Avery County royalty, Doctors Eustace and Mary Martin Sloop,
famous for bringing healthcare and education to the mountain people respectively. Paired
with Walter Foy, a similarly talented musician, “There ain’t no telling what you will hear.”
Getting to the Valle Country Fair should be a breeze this October as a second entrance
to the Fairgrounds was added last . “Having two entrances to the Valle Fair worked
seamlessly in 2021,” said VCF Co-chair Tracey Heiss. “It gets people into the Fair quickly
with no backup of traffic on Broadstone or NC 194.”
The mission of the Valle Country Fair is to raise funds for charitable organizations and
church outreach in Avery and Watauga Counties. In its first 40 years, the Valle Fair raised
over one million dollars to help people in need.
“The Fair sponsors truly appreciate these musicians donating their time and their talent
to our cause,” said Floyd Townsend, Chairman of the Valle Fair Music Committee. “The
performers do it to give back to the community, but they also get a lot of enjoyment in
return for playing in front of this generous and enthusiast audience.”
Together, the musicians performing at the 2022 Valle Country Fair encapsulate the
community driven values of the Appalachian Mountain culture being celebrated at the
Valle Country Fair.
Valle Country Fair will be held on Saturday, October 15 in a large hayfield located beside
NC Highway 194 between Valle Crucis and Banner Elk. Admission to the Fair is FREE and
parking is available in the adjoining field for $10 per car, $25 for a small bus or van, and
$50 for a motor coach. NO PETS ALLOWED.
Media sponsors for VCF 2022 are Curtis Media Group and Mountain Times Publications.
The event is produced by Holy Cross Episcopal Church in cooperation with the Valle Crucis
Conference Center. Proceeds are used to provide grants to local non-profit organizations,
and relief to local families with emergency needs. For more information, contact Holy
Cross Church at 828-963-4609 or visit the Fair on the Web at www.ValleCountryFair.org.