The best festivals this weekend require short day-trips to scenic rural sites. Here's a rundown of our top four choices for craft fans.
n Ketner's Mill Country Arts Fair: A visit here is like stepping back in time where you'll find a working mill, buck dancers and bluegrass musicians, horse-powered sugar-cane press and canoe rides. For kids, there is a petting zoo run by Marion County 4-H Club and mule-pulled wagon rides, but most seem to find skipping rocks across the millstream to be the best fun of all.
Organizer Dee Nash says there are more than 160 food and craft vendors this year, 25 of them new. Among these are William Staubach with metal garden art, Carol Burke's marionettes and pop-up puppets, and Chattanooga Cookie Co. bringing Tennessee Moonshine Cakes.
"Potter John Coburn does a very interesting glaze he calls a faux tie-dye," adds Nash.
Ketner's favorites such as clay artist Cindy Lowery will be back. Lowery says she was a Ketner's shopper before she was a vendor, since she started attending the rural fair with her mother while she was in college. This will be her 11th year to show her whimsical clay people and ornaments.
"I used to do a show every weekend from September through mid-December, but as the responsibilities of my real job increased, I had to cut back. Ketner's Mill is my favorite show because it's a beautiful venue with wonderful staff. From a business standpoint, it's the only craft show near here that brings in 15,000 to 18,000 visitors in a two-day weekend," she says.
* Webb School Arts and Crafts Fair: While traveling west on I-24 to Ketner's, add a little time to drive on to Bell Buckle in Middle Tennessee where the huge Webb School fair will take place. What began as a fundraiser for Webb School has grown so large that the craft show has outgrown the campus and spills over into downtown. Visitors can park and catch a shuttle between the two locations.
* Georgia Apple Festival: Visitors drive to this Ellijay, Ga., for two reasons: the variety of apples (nearly 20) or to shop the wares of 300 craftsmen. But apples aren't the only festival fare here. The diversity of food vendors ranges from Danielle Ross' whoopie pies to Alex Chronis' Greek dishes to Al Bandy's smoked salmon.
The fun kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday with a parade through downtown Ellijay.
* Cleveland Apple Festival: It's all about apples in Cleveland, Tenn., as well, where there will be an apple dessert contest Saturday at 11:15 a.m., and Apple Blossom pageants for girls ages 5-12 on Sunday. Cleveland Apple Festival action takes place around the downtown courthouse square on North Ocoee Street.
Music and dance acts are lined up on the hour both days. Among them is Hannah Miller of Nashville, a singer/songwriter whose music has been played on "Sons of Anarchy." She'll take the stage at noon Saturday.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.