Mentone: An arts colony atop Lookout Mountain

Mentone: An arts colony atop Lookout Mountain

August 27th, 2017 by Compiled by Tim Omarzu in Glimpse 2016

Explore booths full of handmade crafts at JulyFest Art and Music Festival.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

When it comes to the arts, Mentone, a town of less than 400 residents atop Lookout Mountain in DeKalb County, Ala., punches above its weight class.

Its little downtown is replete with art galleries. Craftspeople make everything from quilts to carvings to jewelry. And the Mentone-based Little River Arts Council is host to a number of events.

"We believe the arts are for everyone, beginning with our children and continuing throughout lifetimes," the council's website says. "Our goal is to encourage individual creativity and to broaden community participation, appreciation and support for the visual, performing, and literary arts in the Mentone Area."

Mentone has other things going for it, too — like the South's southernmost ski resort, the highest elevation of any incorporated town in the state and a 104-foot waterfall, DeSoto Falls, that flows just on the outskirts of Mentone. DeSoto is one of the tallest and most visited waterfalls in Alabama.

SOUTHERN SKIING

Mentone is home to Cloudmont Ski & Golf Resort, the only ski resort in Alabama and the southernmost ski resort in the U.S. It opens as soon as winter overnight temperatures drop to 28 degrees or colder. Machine-made snow provides a deep base to hold the snow through the warmer days with snow grooming equipment used when necessary.

"The beginner or experienced skier is comfortable at Cloudmont," the resort's website says. "Even if you've never been on skis, a few hours of expert guidance from our instructors and you're sailing down the slopes like you have been doing it all of your life." (721 County Road 614; 256-634-4344; cloudmont.com)

AN ARTSY PLACE TO EAT

In keeping with downtown Mentone's artsy vibe, Wildflower Cafe serves meals that are "decadent and hardy, or healthy and organic, with gluten-free and vegan options" in a "hippie-chic mountain hangout with local art and live music." The eatery is open seven days a week. Like a hippie version of Cracker Barrel, Wildflower Cafe has an attached country store that sells such items as pottery, jewelry, clothing, local artwork, handmade cards, Good Stuff cacao, Zelma's Blue Ribbon Jams & Jellies, bath and body products, candles and books. (6007 AL-117; 256-634-0066; mentonewildflower.com)

FAST FACTS

-Population: Estimated at 366, according to U.S. Census Bureau

-Namesake: The community was named after Menton, a hilly French town that borders Italy on the French Riviera.

-Location: Mentone is located on Lookout Mountain Parkway, which spans three states as it stretches from Gadsden, Ala., to Chattanooga.

-High claims: With an elevation of 1,736 feet, Mentone claims to be the "highest town in Alabama."

FESTIVALS

-Rhododendron Arts and Crafts Festival: In celebration of the native flowering plants, this festival is held the third weekend in May, when the plants peak in beauty. It features live music and artists and craftsmen displaying handcrafted wares. (facebook.com/MentoneAlabamaFestivals)

-World's Longest Yard Sale: The famous four-day sale which spreads across 690 miles goes through Mentone. It starts each year on the first Thursday of August and operates four days through Sunday, covering six states between Alabama and Michigan. (127yardsale.com)

-Mentone Colorfest: A free two-day arts and crafts festival held the third weekend in October is returning Oct. 21-22 this year. It includes a Friday night bonfire where children toast marshmallows, a Saturday afternoon parade and arts, and a steady stream of music from local musicians that can be heard in the Brow Park Pavilion. (discoverlookoutmountain.com/calendar.shtml)

Sources: MyMentone.com, Alabama.travel, factfinder.census.gov, cloudmont.com, mentonewildflower.com

Remains of the Mentone Springs Hotel reveal two tall rock chimneys and some concrete flooring.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.