What is Prater's Mill Country Fair?
The Prater’s Mill Country Fair focuses on mountain music, Southern foods, living history exhibits and the handmade crafts and original art of 170 talented artists and artisans. Craft demonstrations include blacksmithing, quilting, rug hooking, woodcarving and hand tufting, a cottage industry that evolved into the tufted carpet industry centered in Dalton, Ga.
At the fair, visitors take self-guided tours of the operating gristmill, Prater’s Store, Shugart Cotton Gin, Dr. Lacewell’s Office, and the Westbrook Barn complete with farm animals. Across the road from the mill in the 1898 Prater’s store guests taste authentic Southern meals, view displays of antique tractors, cars, plows and more. Elsewhere throughout the festival are other specialties such as pit-cooked barbecue, apple cider, fried pies and churned ice cream.
During the fair, families enjoy a walk down the Norma Gordon Nature Loop or the Eagle Trail or the Prater’s Mill Greenway and pony rides, petting zoo and ‘Little General’ train ride for children. Educational exhibits include an authentic Civil War items and “Peacock Alley”, a clothesline display of hand-tufted bedspreads. Additional bedspread displays and in the side room of the Mill (#005)
Continuous entertainment on the main stage under the Saylors Pavilion features Appalachian-style clogging and country/bluegrass and gospel music during the fair. On the porch of the Mill, you can find dulcimer player Pat Bryant & grandchildren performing with Steve Wixson on rhythm bones.
In many minds, the highlight of the Fair is the food. The Dalton Pike Church of God serves authentic Southern dishes – chicken and dumplings, collard greens, and corn bread cooked on a wood stove – near the 1898 Prater’s store (located just across the road from the mill) which has another fine selection of Southern food samplings. Other regional favorites are served at various points on the festival grounds. These include delicacies such as John’s Family pit-cooked barbecue, Cochran Family fried pies, North Georgia apple cider, and even fresh-churned ice cream.
The Prater’s Mill Country Fair is sponsored by the Prater’s Mill Foundation, a non-profit organization of volunteers dedicated to historic preservation and education. Nearly 40 civic clubs, churches and schools also participate in the community event.
Parking is Free
All Parking at Prater’s Mill is free. The Prater’s Mill Traffic Control will direct you off the road and into our parking lots where the Boy Scouts will take over and get you in a space. The Boy Scouts will help navigate the lots and direct you back out to go home. You may have many questions, please do not stop to ask. We are parking you in the closest available lot in the closest space. Stopping the process only causes traffic jams. You may not understand what we are doing. We often park vehicles nose to tail but we leave driveways so everyone can either pull or back out to leave with out obstruction.
Our parking lots are hayfields, so this is not a trip to the mall. You may think where you want to go is a good spot, it may be mud or sink hole or worse. We have roped off driveways and bus stops to give the lot some structure. Free shuttle buses run constantly from the fair grounds to designated points in each parking lot. Each bus stop has its own color. Remember the color to get back to the same stop. Buses cannot drop off or pick up outside of these designated areas for safety reasons.
Handicapped? Reserved handicap parking is next to the blue bus stop where wheel chair lift shuttles will deliver you to the fair grounds. Display permit for faster, accurate direction.
RVs and buses park in a special lot up on the hill.
On the Grounds
Once upon a time Prater’s Mill and Dalton Rock shared an owner, so most of our exhibit space is gravel. High heels and small wheel strollers will find the terrain difficult at best. Comfortable shoes and wagons are the way to go here.
Children under 12 are free and so is your dog. We do require you to pick up after them both plus the dogs must be leashed. Please note the DOT will not allow non-service animals on the shuttle busses.
The fair admission fee for adults and seniors of $7 (cash only) goes to help preserve and maintain Prater’s Mill and the surrounding buildings. Children 12 and under and Military with ID are free. Parking and shuttle services are free. Coca-Cola sponsors live entertainment all day long at the Saylors Pavilion. Appalachian musicians and cloggers are among the many acts scheduled throughout the weekend.
And yes there is food. Held in the atmosphere of an old time country fair, Southern home style cooking is provided by many civic groups and vendors at reasonable prices. Coca-Cola supplies Dasani bottled water, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Dr, Pepper along with 4 flavors of Powerade sold at $2.00 per bottle.
What about the Dog?
We would like to be able to keep our park pet friendly, but it does take ALL pet owners to take responsibility for their pet to be able to do this. Pet owners, we hope you will continue to help us with our efforts in keeping our park clean and pet friendly by letting us know if our policies are being met or not. If you see another pet owner not following our policies please let us know.
Our pet policies are listed below:
• DOT regulations prohibits animals on the shuttle buses.
• All animals must be on a leash and controlled at all times.
• Pet owners must clean up after their pets.
• Clean up bag(s) must be visible and with your dog.
• Young children should not walk the dog.
• No pets allowed in restrooms or Port-o-lets
• Do not leave your pets unattended at any time.
Prater's Mill Year Round
Prater’s Mill Heritage Park is open to the public during daylight hours only. The park is closed from 2 Fridays before through the Monday after the fair. Fishing and boating are allowed with the proper licenses. No vehicles are allowed to park beyond the yellow chain. But you can drive down and unload your boat.
The grounds are available for everything from family reunions and weddings to corporate outings. Just give us a call to see what is available. Use of the buildings require a paid reservation to be used.