KINGS MOUNTAIN -- Vibeke Gade first volunteered for the Kings Mountain Art Fair in 1970, cooking breakfast for visiting artists back in the fair's early stages.

"Since it was kind of the hippie days, we made oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs and fruit," recalled Gade, a native of Denmark who goes by Vibs.

Forty-four years later, the 67-year-old grandmother has eased off volunteering to focus on her own artwork -- she displays oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings at the fair in the Mountain Folk Art category for local artists.

But her family has followed in her footsteps. Her son, Joakim Bye, volunteers in the kitchen, while his wife, Angela, takes orders at the grill and works the cash register. Their children, Tanner and Camryn, bus trays and sell cookies.

They are among roughly 400 volunteers who organize and manage every detail of the fair, which runs Saturday through Monday. The Labor Day weekend festival is essential to the rustic community's survival, raising money to support its fire department and elementary school, and considered one of the top juried art fairs in California, if not the country.

The fair takes place around Phleger Station, home of the Kings Mountain Volunteer Fire Brigade. Artists set up their booths amid the Peninsula's northernmost redwood grove. The grill serves breakfast and lunch, and there are activities for children including face-painting.


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Between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors are expected this weekend, which will make for heavy traffic on Skyline Boulevard, the only route in and out of Kings Mountain. As they do every year, organizers will run free shuttles between the fairgrounds and designated parking areas.

To pull off an event of that scale requires extraordinary volunteer participation. Festival organizers estimate more than a third of the residents pitch in. It's a reflection of the collaborative spirit of the community, a smattering of roughly 400 year-round homes that straddle a ridge between the Peninsula and the rural San Mateo County coast.

"You don't say, 'Oh, God, I have to volunteer,'" said Angela Bye, whose husband registers months in advance to get his coveted spot in the kitchen. "You want to volunteer. You want to be a part of it."

A lot has changed since Gade moved to Kings Mountain in 1969, but at least two things have remained constant: the natural beauty of the place and the spirit that pervades it.

"I love the fresh air, I love the trees," she said. "I think I'm as close to heaven as I can be."

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.

Kings Mountain Art Fair
When: Saturday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 2
Hours: Artist booths are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: Phleger Station, 13889 Skyline Blvd. (6 miles south of state Highway 92)
Cost: Admission is free
More information: Visit www.kingsmountainartfair.org