47th Annual Fair Comes to Bluemont

The small town of Bluemont hosted its 47th annual fair September 17th and 18th and provided many opportunities for vendors to show off their items, organizations to gain recognition, and for families to just get out and have fun together. The fair first started back in 1969 and has gained much recognition since then. Many vendors and attendees come back each year to experience the history and beauty of Bluemont.

Members of the Loudoun Beekeepers Association, LBA, have been coming to the Bluemont Fair since 1992 to advertise different types of honey and explain the honey making process. Their tent attracts many people due to its beehive exhibit and honey tasting options. 2016 was beekeeper Ernie Brown’s first time at the fair. “I like introducing people to local honey,” said Brown about his experience at the honey stand. “We’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s one of the favorite booths [at the fair].”

Another familiar vendor is Pappy’s Wooden Dreams. Operated by “Pappy” and Sue Belote, the booth provides homemade wooden toys for kids of all ages. The Belotes have been attending the fair since 1992. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and I love it,” said Pappy. Both Pappy and Sue work together for the business, describing their home as a literal toy factory, with the living room for drying; dining room for painting; and kitchen for designing. Pappy continues to come to the Bluemont Fair because it’s fun to make kids happy and meet people. Pappy explained how last year a young man came to his booth after saving up $11 for one of Pappy’s handmade wooden tanks. While the tank was actually around $21, Pappy explained to the boy that it was on sale for exactly $11 that day.

“It’s things like that. That’s what I do it for.” Though he loves his work and finds it fun, it’s also a lot of hard work. “We put in a minimum of a 14 hour day. We got [to the fair] between seven and eight and left the house around five-thirty,” said Sue Belote about their hectic schedule. It’s a long day, but it’s something they say they both enjoy and will continue to do for a long time.

Terry Bender and Jan Bender are the organ grinders and another couple that have been at the Bluemont Fair since 1992.  “Just a couple years ago, a mom brought her daughter and said that she had come as a child too. We thought ‘Oh my, does that mean we’re old?’” said Jan Bender. Organ grinding has been around, specifically the type with punched paper cards like the kind at the fair, since the 1800’s. Even today, organs are being made in Germany, the country of their origin. The organ grinder not only plays at the Bluemont Fair, but has also entertained at the cathedral at its flower mart.

A new feature of the 2016 fair was the “Indian Village” which was created by living history exhibitors with the Gathering Program. A division from the Native American Church, Sanctuary on the Trail, the Gathering wants to reduce suffering in the world and acknowledge indigenous contributions to it as well. The purpose was education about Native American people in the northern Virginia area. The Gathering partnered with the Montessori School in Bluemont to create the village. The students made artwork, like paintings and clay sculptures, to display around the village. The kids were congratulated during the opening as they participated in a parade including ponies and even got to be a part of the ribbon cutting. “It was really an experiment to see if people even wanted to know more about the Native American people or not,” said executive director, Rene Locklear White. After having around 5000 attendees at their previous event in Berryville, VA it was determined that the experiment was successful.

The Bluemont Fair provides a stage for those wishing to share their skills and past-times, but also a time to acknowledge and learn more about the local history. For a weekend, guests immerse themselves in music, antiques, and education. Attendee, Bill Terry describes his eighth year at the fair “like a step back in time.”