While many may be familiar with Blairsville, Georgia for its participation in the Appalachian Trail, its connection to the infamous Appalachian poet Byron Herbert Reece, or its proximity to Brasstown Bald, there’s another attraction that draws thousands of visitors to the area each summer – the farmers market.
Formally known as the Union County Farmers Market, this three building market is one of the largest in the North Georgia and Western North Carolina region, boasting more than 70 vendors selling handmade goods, fresh produce, and other homemade Appalachian treasures. And the best part about it? Everything that’s sold there is from the five counties that make up the region – Cherokee and Clay County, North Carolina, and Union, Towns, and Fannin County, Georgia.
In Blairsville, “buy local” isn’t just a movement, it’s a way of life.
Although the market doesn’t officially open until June 2, each year a pre-market extravaganza is held to celebrate the upcoming season and the goods of the region with an annual Ramps, Beef, and Strawberry Day.
The day commemorates the beginning of strawberry season, which runs from late April until early July, pay homage to the large cattle industry in the area, and reveres the beloved Appalachian onion, ramps.
For those who’ve never heard of a ramp, seen a ramp, or had the pleasure of tasting one, heading over to the Union County Farmers Market is a must. Ramps, or wild North American onions, only grow during the spring and have long since been a staple of Appalachian cuisine due to their accessibility and diversity.
On ramp day, these wild veggies are fried, mashed, sautéed, jammed, pickled, and served up on homemade cornbread for the thousands of lucky market-goers to munch on. To make a long story short, these little things are pungent and tastes like garlic and onions mashed together, so make sure you pack a breath mint.
This year’s Ramps, Beef, and Strawberry Day will take place on Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
After the market officially opens on June 2, it will run from then until October, every Saturday from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., and every Tuesday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Looking for more to do at the market on a Saturday morning other than pick up delicious goods? Well, the Union County Farmers Market hosts dozens of events each season aside from Ramps, Beef, and Strawberry Day.
Check out this list below if you’re ever in need of a good Appalachian market jubilee.
- June 2 Opening Day
- June 9 Biscuits & “Jam”
- June 16 Heritage Day
- June 23 American Cancer Society Dessert Contest
- June 30 Union County Canning Plant Open House
- July 7 Salute to Crafters
- July 14 GMREC Community Council
- July 21 Hometown Pride
- July 28 The Green Bean Festival
- Aug 4 Free Tomato Sandwich Day
- Aug 11 Celebrate National Farmers Market Week
- Aug 18 Sweet Corn Day
- Aug 25 Totally Tomato
- Sept 1 Salute to Farmers/Tractor Parade
- Sept 8 College Colors
- Sept 15 Honey Bee Jubilee
- Sept 22 Johnny Appleseed Day
- Sept 29 Butternut Creek Pumpkin Contest
- Oct 6 Farm & Fleece Fair
- Oct 13 Salute to Veterans
- Oct 20 Greens, Beans, & Cornbread
- Oct 27 Pumpkin Carving
Check out more to do at the market at the Union County Farmers Market.
lads n lassies n appalachia
If you’re visiting anywhere in the Northeast Georgia and Western North Carolina region, you’re sure to see plenty of historic sites commemorating the Native Americans who once owned the land prior to colonization. And of course there are plenty of sites paying homage to the traditions of old Appalachia.
But what about the deep Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots that are so prominent in the area? Sure, everyone knows of Savannah, Georgia’s claim to fame in Scottish heritage with its annual St. Patrick’s Day, but coastal Georgia wasn’t the only ones being colonized by Scottish and Irish Settlers. In fact, many of those who traveled the Atlantic from Scotland back in the 1700s and 1800s eventually made their way to the Southern Appalachian region where the soil was harvestable and the landscape familiar to that of their native land.
So if you’re looking to dig into some Appalachian Scottish heritage, or just want something different to do, be sure to check out the Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games at Meeks Park.
Marking the 15th year of existence, this year’s festival will take place on the weekend of June 9, starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday and running through 5 p.m. on Sunday. The festival began as a way to recognize the area’s Scottish roots and now, over a decade later, it has come to be one of the largest gatherings of Scottish clans in Georgia.
With more than 15 clans represented last year, this year’s annual festival and games is sure to be just as rich with history, representation, and enthusiasm for the weekend’s festivities.
So, what should you even expect at a Scottish Festival and Highland Games? Each year the opening ceremony contains a Parade of Tartans, Massed Bands, and a Pipe and Drums Parade. For those who may not be studied on their Scottish history, a tartan is the woven wool cloth that’s made into various patterns of plaid, which are especially designed with a particular Scottish clan in mind. Each clan has its own tartan variation, which is then made into kilts, and the Parade of Tartans is a way for these clans to showcase their colors and coat of arms.
Following the Parade of Tartans, Massed Bands, bagpipes, and drums will welcome all to the festival before the official start of the highland games begins. These games include shot put, tossing the caber, hammer throw, and tug o’war. There are also highlands games that kids can sign up and participate in later in the day.
And if you’re not so into seeing a bunch of guys in kilts throw things, there’s always falconry to check out, the border collie/sheep demonstration, and the Bonniest Knees contest that’s held on Sunday afternoon.
Tickets for the event can be bought online here or you can purchase them at the gate when you get there. The venue is dog friendly and don’t worry about not snagging a ticket, there’s no limit to how many people are allowed in the park.
Appalachia is full of more than just moonshine, mountains, and Marlboros. Don’t miss your chance to see what Scottish Appalachia is all about!