WHITWELL, Tenn. — With temperatures in the high 70s on Sunday afternoon, festivalgoers enjoyed the warm weather as they perused rows of carefully handmade goods at the 40th anniversary of the Ketner's Mill Country Arts Fair.
Artisans from all around Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama set up tents to showcase their crafts. From colorful crocheted afghans to homemade jams and bread or handmade pottery, belts, lanterns and everything in between, there was something for just about everyone.
Carolyn Hernandez said she has been coming to the fair for more than 30 years. She and her husband, Maurice Hernandez, made the the roughly 40-minute drive from Chattanooga with their 14-year-old dog Tuffy — this was only his second year of attendance.
Carolyn said the fair has remained about the same size over the years, with new vendors replacing those who leave. She said her favorite part is browsing through everything the vendors have to offer.
The first Ketner's Mill Country Fair celebrated completion of a project to preserve the mill in 1977. The mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places during the same year, and a wool carding mill on site is one of only three still running in the United States today, according to the mill's website.
Not far from the entrance, Allen White and his family stood behind a long, white table lined with jars of honey. He said he's been coming to the fair for more than 25 years, and has been in the honey business since the 1970s.
"We're at 150 beehives right now," he said of his honey farm in Dalton, Ga. "I uncap [the honeycomb] with a knife, clean it out, it goes through a strainer and then I pump it into 55-gallon drums. It's pure honey."
Harvesting honey is White's full-time job, and he said business is pretty good.
"I enjoy my work. I still don't like the stings; they still hurt," he said bursting into laughter. "But once you give the bees respect, they're real easy to get along with."
Further into the maze of vendors, Bobby Edwards sat weaving baskets from white oak wood.
"[People] could use them in their garden, they could set them around and just look at them and decorate with them," he said as he pointed to the strips of wood the baskets are made with, still with bark on them.
Edwards said he's been making baskets for about 20 years and has been coming to the fair for around five years. It takes him anywhere from four to 40 hours to finish a basket, depending on how intricate the design is. He said he took up basket weaving because it was something simple and useful he could make.
His wife, Mik Edwards, also helps weave baskets, and they sometimes work on pieces together.
"It's a good hobby," he said.
Nearby, the sound of bluegrass music rang from one of the fair's two stages, and the air was scented with the smell of funnel cake and other country fair favorites filled the air. Parents wandered around with children in strollers and dogs of all sizes on leashes.
On the way out, closer to the entrance, Tony Fox and his wife, Vilma Fox, of Signal Mountain, sat on a low-rise brick ledge. Tony said they first came not long after the fair opened, though they don't come every year anymore. They used to come more often when they had young children, he said.
"It's a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon," Vilma said. "And a bit of people watching," Tony added.
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at email@example.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.