Arts & Entertainment - August 25, 2010

Kings Mountain Art Fair: model of self-reliance

by Aeron Noe

The Kings Mountain Art Fair has long had the reputation of a high-quality art fair. This year it was recognized as one of the Top Five Fine Craft Fairs in California and Top 100 in the nation by the Art Fair SourceBook, a leading national guide to art fairs.

Kings Mountain is a little different from the other top California fairs; it's the only one that is 100 percent volunteer-run. More than 400 volunteers from this small community come together to run the annual event, creating a unique grassroots atmosphere.

Its purpose is also different from other fairs.

"This fair exists because we're a rural community and we need to be prepared to help take care of ourselves," says executive director Dawn Neisser.

The art fair started in 1963 as a fundraiser to help create the volunteer fire department after a local fire made residents realize how ill-prepared they were to deal with such disasters.

After 47 years, the fair has evolved into a serious and competitive art event. It provides funds for fire trucks and a fire station/community center, where the fair is now held every year. It also helps pay for after-school programs and materials for the Kings Mountain Elementary School.

"Another benefit of the fair is how tight a community we've become and how well people know each other because they've been working side-by-side for years," Ms. Neisser says.

"We have an unbelievable sense of community pride because of our volunteerism, not just at the fair, but the volunteer firefighters and the volunteers who organize the Kings Mountain Emergency Preparedness group. We've had to rely on each other to get through fires and medical emergencies."

Ms. Neisser says the community support for the art fair shapes the experience of the people who visit the fair, too.

"What the fairgoer sees is a genuinely friendly and warm atmosphere that is not at all commercial," she says. "They tell us they like seeing the kids pulling the cookie wagons, the neighbors cooking together on the grill, and the friendliness of the people in the info center. And of course, we do have great art."

Go to for more information.


The Kings Mountain Art Fair will be held at 13889 Skyline Boulevard in Woodside on Labor Day weekend, from Saturday through Monday, Sept. 4-6. Pancake breakfast with the artists starts at 8 a.m.; the artist booths are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission.


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