Friday, October 21, 2016

Ketner's Mill Festival

Two mule-drawn wagons were available to take fair-goers on a jolting ride around the perimeter of the field.

Updated to add a working link to Ketner's Mill. The 'history' of the mill and photos of previous fairs give a better presentation than my few photos.

Last Friday we traveled to Tennessee to spend the weekend at the lovely home of our niece and her husband.  She had planned an outing for us, along with our son and his wife, to the old time fair at  Ketner's Mill

It was a lovely blue sky day--warm, but not too hot for strolling around outdoors.
Our niece had been there before and noted that many people brought their dogs--on leads--so son Howard's beloved Katy and the newer addition to the family, Dixie [aka Melon-Head] were along for the day.

It was difficult to take photos with so many people moving about--although it was an orderly crowd.
Small children trailed along nicely with parents, there were no dog fights.
Howard's dogs submitted politely to attention and occasional pats--although Katy is a bit wary of strangers.
A bakery stall was set up near the old mill with delectable-looking loaves, rolls and other baked goods. Another nearby display featured 'grits' [a staple of southern breakfasts] and various types of cornmeal packaged in neat paper or cloth sacks.
Our niece's husband stepped up to a booth where lemonade was offered--the lemons squeezed on the spot for each order.  I was treated to a tall icy cupful--sweet, tangy--and rather pricey!

A southern fair isn't complete without kettle corn! 
From wikipedia: "Kettle corn was introduced to the United States in the 18th century.
It was a treat sold at fairs or consumed at other festive occasions. The corn, oil, sugar, and salt are cooked together in a cast iron kettle, or possibly a Dutch oven. This produces a noticeable sweet crust on the popcorn; however, this method requires constant stirring or the sugar will burn. Alternatively, a batch of plain popped corn can be sweetened with sugar or honey before adding salt. This combination was widely popular in the early 19th century but fell from wide usage during the 20th century. In the early 21st century, kettle corn made a comeback in America, especially at 19th-century living history events. It is cooked and sold at fairs and flea markets throughout the United States, especially art and craft shows. Although modern kettle corn is commonly cooked in stainless steel or copper kettles because of their lighter weight, cast iron cauldrons are still used to publicly cook the corn and mix the ingredients to retain the original flavor."

I'm not a fan of 'popcorn' in any guise, but I noted folks lugging around huge bags of the treat.
The smells from vendors'stalls offering onion rings, hot dogs, hamburgers--standard outdoor food-- competed to lure long lines of customers.

Dawn and I heard strains of fiddle music and followed the sound to where a white-bearded man in overalls was practicing jigs and reels with a lady whom he introduced to us as 'Granny."  She was seated on a convenient tree stump, with a guitar. 
We later saw them presenting a round of songs from an improvised 'stage' in the center of the field.

Jim and I were drawn to this shed where sorghum was being boiled down.
The process is similar to that of making maple syrup.
The finished product was arranged in gleaming jars on a table just outside the shed.
From the dresses and caps of the young women tending the stall this was a Mennonite family.


Part of sorghum production is crushing the sorghum stalks to extract the raw 'juice.'
You can see that the mule is pulling a pole attached to the mill, while a young man feeds in the stalks of cane. 

Sorghum is little known or used in New England. 
[we had maple syrup!]
It was a familiar condiment in my late father-in-law's boyhood home in North Carolina.
He brought some with him one year when he and Jim's Mom made their annual summer pilgrimage to our place in Vermont. 
Sorghum has a heavier consistency than maple syrup--good to smear on hot biscuits or corn bread.

The crafts presented by the various vendors were of high quality. 
Wooden bowls; handsome cutting boards created checker-board fashion with a variety of woods; 
handmade soaps and candles, delectably scented; metal lawn ornaments, paintings; 
Dawn and I coveted the soft shawls and scarves on display at the spinner's booth--but $90 for a scarf was beyond our means!

I glanced surreptitiously at the price tag on one of these lovely reproduction Windsor chairs--$500.
Again--out of my range, but I hoped the craftsman sold a few--or at least took orders.
I did notice one woman flourishing a credit card and then proudly trudging off with a chair.

We misplaced Jim for a bit in a booth where a man was displaying his paintings of vintage tractors.
When he rejoined us we rounded up our gang and decided it was time to leave the fair.
On our way toward the parking field Howard drifted over to this modestly restored vintage truck.
Of course he fell into conversation with the 'old boy' owner.

For some reason, that gentleman felt I should pose by his truck and have my picture taken!
I assured him that I was happier behind the camera, but Howard was persuaded to oblige.

Howard and Dawn have chosen a house in the rural valley town a few miles from Ketner's Mill.
We were delighted that we could view the house inside and out.
I had seen the realtor's photos online and chose not to take photos of the empty rooms.
There is a fenced back yard--for the dogs--and great potential for an appealing home--with Howard's considerable renovating skills and Dawn's good sense of style and colors.  The back deck and front steps appear to be originals to the 1998 construction.  As soon as the closing takes place [next week, we hope] Jim will go back down to assist in the replacement of the decks.

A scrumptious dinner in honor of our niece's husband's birthday finished our long and happy day.
Perhaps not surprisingly, we all--including the dogs--crashed rather early in the evening!

I'm already thinking that Ketner's Mill Festival may become an annual outing.


  1. Oh that is just my sort of thing Sharon. What a great day out and I imagine there were some very tempting things on offer. I especially liked the Windsor chairs (they're all lovely, but the comb back in the middle is gorgeous). The similar Georgian ones we bought at auction this week were £120 hammer price plus 21% commission (£150 ish) which is about $180.

    I loved the photo of the mules rubbing heads together. Perfect timing.

    I assume this sort of living history fair is popular in the States now?

    Glad to hear that Howard and Dawn have bought the right sort of new home for themselves (and closer to you both too).

    1. Jennie; When we came to the chair-crafter's booth I immediately thought that you and Keith would have enjoyed the items on display and could have talked knowledgeably with the woodworker. I felt that the chairs were of fine quality but hoped that their maker had a variety of venues if he depended on this work for income.
      I wonder, too, if this sort of fair is on the rise--possibly more in the south than other parts of the country. It was a far cry from the 'county fair' type of thing that is all about cheap game stalls and stomach-churning 'rides.'
      Our niece has a nice collection of locally made pottery which I believe she has acquired at similar festivals.
      We are delighted that Howard and Dawn will be living a mere [!] 3 1/2 hours away!

  2. What a great time you had! The food sounds delicious, the hand made items look and sound beautiful or delicious!

    May your niece and her husband enjoy their new home.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; Although I didn't mention it in my post, our niece and her husband are also transitioning to a different home in the area--less house and more land. Our son is doing the quite extensive renovations for them. Howard will need to take a bit of time off from that to do the most pressing work on the house he and Dawn have chosen--we are so excited for them.
      There was a jewelry stall at the fair which I think you would have liked--all hand made with lovely beads and such--but I didn't see anything similar to the daintily crafted items which you create.

  3. That looks like a wonderful outing. Love those kind of things. I'm especially intrigued by the sorghum making, having never seen it done. Those Windsor chairs are just beautiful. That takes real craftsmanship. Glad you had a good time!


    1. Jane; You and I likely both belong to the group who observes and says, "Hmmm--I think I could construct something similar!" I pointed out the rustic birdhouses to Jim--isn't it wonderful to have menfolk who can eye up some scraps of lumber and make a shelf--or a birdhouse?
      I could have done with a closer look at some of the stalls, but not inclined to elbow my way through or jostle!

  4. The mule drawn carriage is cute...

    Please visit:

  5. Krishna; The wagon rides seemed to be a real attraction for the families with younger children. I did visit your blog--you manage a good deal of travel and adventures--with your son who is sometimes not enthused!

  6. That sounds like a fun day and reminiscent of the Kootenay valley fairs we have in British Columbia. Handmade treasures are not cheap there, either.

  7. Hildred; We who 'make things' understand the hours that go into a unique handcrafted item. I always hope that the vendors sell a few pieces to off-set the cost of setting up--and sometimes paying a fee for their spot. I look at their beautiful wares with a sigh and the thought: "if money were no object...."


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