Festival brings 'em back

June 14, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

Barbara Zimmerman was walking to the next tent Friday morning, the first day of the three-day Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival. She was toting a bag, proof that she had already made a few purchases.

"I've been coming here for 30 years," Zimmerman said. "I've seen it grow. I remember carrying my daughter in my arms."

Like many repeat patrons, Zimmerman said she has favorite crafters she sees every year.

"They know me," she said.

This weekend marks the 32nd spring festival. It's been held in the fall, too, since 1976.

Ren and Pam Parziale, owners of Sycamore Pottery in Kearneysville, W.Va., have been setting up a booth at the festival since the first year.


"This is the only festival we do, spring and fall," Ren Parziale said.

Parts of the tent over the Parziales' booth and those of some of the other 200 or so crafters crashed down or threatened to come down Thursday afternoon when a violent storm swept through Jefferson County, Ren Parziale said.

"The end of one tent came down and three poles snapped on ours," Pam Parziale said. "It was the first time I've really been frightened. "I said 'Oh, my god, there goes our entire winter's work.' "

The couple praised the festivals' organizers for quick repairs and for getting the grounds back in order for Friday's opening.

Ralph Basford, a Martinsburg artist, was sitting in his booth under another tent.

"Of all the shows I've done, this is the best of the lot," he said. "It's already established itself as one of the top East Coast shows."

The festival draws 30,000 to 40,000 patrons over the three days in a good year, he said.

It's sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said Mary Via, the Chamber's executive director. She's been running the festival for 23 years. Profits from the festival underwrite Chamber programs throughout the year.

Expenses run around $180,000, she said.

Julia Connell was standing before a black kettle as she and fellow members of the Charles Town Rotary Club manned their apple butter booth. It's an annual fund-raiser.

Pam Holstein-Wallace, co-chair of the venture, said the apple butter Connell was stirring was more of an advertisement to lure patrons to the booth. The club buys its apple butter from a Frederick, Md., supplier who makes it under the club's label.

"This is just for show," she said of the boiling vat in front of Connell. "We sell that just to our own members."

The club takes in about $3,500 from apple butter sales in the spring festival and usually more than $5,000 at the fall event, Holstein-Wallace said.

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