Pronounced among the top five art fairs in California and top 10 in the nation, the Kings Mountain Art Fair will unfold its array of fine art and top-quality fine crafts in the redwoods this Labor Day weekend.

The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, through Monday, Sept. 3, in and around the Kings Mountain Community Center at 13889 Skyline Blvd. Each day starts at 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. with “Pancake Breakfast with the Artists” at the fair’s “Grill 56” adjacent to the community center, and lunch will be available at the same spot from 11:30 a.m. till 4 p.m. Parking is available along Skyline Boulevard, and shuttles ferry visitors between the fair and their cars all day.

Sprinkled among the trees and groves, booths will showcase paintings, photography, woodwork, ceramics, and much more by the 138 professional artists from the Western United States, as well as the roughly 30 Mountain Folk artists. Children’s supervised art-oriented activities will be held at Kiddie Hollow, where parents may leave kids while they browse.

Percentages of the sales from all the artists go to benefit the Kings Mountain volunteer fire brigade, Kings Mountain Elementary School and other needs in the mountain community. That began in 1963 when residents sought to address fears of fire on the wooded mountain, and the fair has since supported the fire brigade, built the community center and fitted it with state-of-the-art fire vehicles

A week before the fair, residents will have baked thousands of giant cookies, for sale at a booth and from wagons toted by students, to benefit the school.

The fair unfolds in a complex tapestry made up of many factions — artists, volunteers, shuttle drivers, and much more. It all calls for a vast web of intercommunication hinging on a conscious stewardship, said eight-year Executive Director Dawn Neisser.

At its heart is the fair’s policy of eschewing commercial sponsorship. Its ambience and atmosphere generates from the art and the community itself, whose volunteers staff Grill 56, assist the artists by bringing them lunch, help with administrative and logistical tasks, and more. Even children cheerfully bus the Grill’s tables. There is no live entertainment per se, except soft strains from harpist Aryeh Frankfurter in the grove of paintings.

The fair, which began in 1963 with handmade crafts sold by the Pine Needles, a group of mountain needlecrafters, has consciously held on to its noncommercial, natural-ambience roots, said Neisser. “Our policy is one way to retain that communal and volunteer essence,” she said. “It keeps the heart and spirit of the fair — a community working to support itself.”

That ambience also imparts a visceral experience that keeps the fair “purer in spirit” she added.

“We have the goal to maintain that, to cherish that,” she said. When the issue of sponsorship came up in tough economic times, “we made the conscious decision that wasn’t what we wanted to do. Should there be big billboards in the shuttles? No.”

Neisser told of seeing the fire brigade in action when engines rolled up within minutes to put out a fire in a neighbor’s home earlier this summer. She also cited the KMEP (Kings Mountain Emergency Preparedness) a brigade offshoot, as an example of how the community looks out for its members. In case of disaster, KMEP members follow planned routes through the community to check homes, and residents put out prearranged signals to show that everyone is all right or to call for help.

“I feel really fortunate to live in a community like this,” she said.

What is up for next year, when the art fair turns 50?

The fair’s half-century mark will be celebrated in various ways. Neisser said her team wants to express appreciation for the corps of volunteers, some who have been involved for all 50 years. It wants to salute and express appreciation for the artists and to showcase the fair’s colorful history and add playful aspects like banners along the road.

“Everyone’s looking forward to the 50th, and how significant it is,” said Neisser.

For information, call (650) 851-2710.

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