Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
With 189 lakefront campsites, a diverse summer concert series, beer and wine festivals, and annual events like the Georgia Mountain Fair, the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds is a destination for summer fun. Last year, more than 250,000 people attended events at the fairgrounds and with a packed 2016 schedule, this year stands to be even better.
“Diversity in events is so important because we attract thousands of people to the fairgrounds annually, and we try to offer some type of entertainment for everyone,” said Hilda Thomason, General Manager of the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. “Each event brings different people. We offer a good variety of bluegrass, country, gospel, rock and roll, jazz, and it depends on the type of event you are having which music works best.”
So far this year, the fairgrounds has played host to Country Music Star Travis Tritt and American singer-songwriter Chubby Checker, with dozens of other events scheduled throughout the year. This weekend, the Greater Atlanta British Motorcycle Rally will be calling the fairgrounds home for the weekend with the Appalachian Wine & Jazz Festival to be held the following weekend on June 11.
“All events are special, because I am always planning the events and making sure they are run correctly,” said Thomason. “I really like the Appalachian Wine, Music & Art Festival. We have 17 wineries (fine wines) from North Georgia that will be participating, Arts and music and several restaurants will be providing the food. It is such a relaxed fun event and great wine from the vineyards.”
Just as schools around the region are letting out for summer, the fairgrounds’ Summer Concerts Series is in full swing with Lynyrd Skynyrd scheduled to perform on June 17 and the Little River Band slated for July 2.
One of the fairgrounds’ largest annual events, the Georgia Mountain Fair is scheduled for July 15 to 23, right in the height of summer.
“The Georgia Mountain Fair began in 1950, this was the first fair,” said Thomason. “This year is the 66th year. I have been working for the Georgia Mountain Fair for 35 years, and always attended the fair as a child. The Georgia Mountain Fair is such a huge tourism boost for the entire area. This helps the economy and gives the restaurants, hotels, shops and gas stations an extra boost. The county sales tax and hotel and motel tax increases during all the events we have planned.”
From world-class country and gospel performances to good old rock ‘n’ roll shows, the Georgia Mountain Fair will host several renowned musical acts in the 2,900-seat Anderson Music Hall throughout its nine days of festivities. Performers include legends, The Association, Connie Smith, Shenandoah, Exile, Asleep at the Wheel, Bellamy Brothers, The Grascals, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and gospel singers The McKameys, Primitives and Archie Watkins & Smoky Mtn. Reunion.
Also, during the Fair attendees can step back in time as they watch educational demonstrations such as blacksmithing, soap-making, moon shining and hominy-making in the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds’ Pioneer Village. Visitors can tour restored authentic and antique buildings including a one-room schoolhouse, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a repair shop and an “old mountain home,” moved to the fairgrounds to preserve the area’s rich history. While visitors experience North Georgia’s past firsthand, they will also listen to tales of life as it once was from local experts. Art lovers will also enjoy strolling through the juried arts and crafts show, set up throughout the Pioneer Village and Craft Village each day of the fair. The show features talented artisans from around the country.
While show-stopping concerts such as Jana Kramer and Tracy Lawrence on August 26 and the Charlie Daniels Band on September 24 are in the lineup this year, Thomason said something new to the event calendar this year will be held this October.
“We will be having a new event this year, the Appalachian Brew, Que and Stew Festival on Oct. 21 and 22,” said Thomason. “We have approximately 40 different types of craft beer, bluegrass music, arts and crafts, brunswick stew, and BBQ. Come spend the entire weekend and enjoy all the fun.”
The Fairgrounds are located along the shores of Lake Chatuge in the north Georgia mountain community of Hiawassee and offers 189 camp and RV sites, most with lake views. For more information on the property and campsites as well as a complete listing of events, visit www.GeorgiaMountainFairgrounds.com