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'Overflow, overflow' crowd flocks to fair

August 03, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

She's an energetic president who is not above getting her hands dirty or even stained, if need be.

It was in the kitchen of Widmyer Elementary School in Berkeley Springs on Saturday afternoon that one could find Pam Hessler stirring a batch of cherry-flavored liquid to be used in sno-cones.

Hessler, president of the Morgan County Fair Association, recommended buying a sno-cone as soon as supplies could meet the demand.

Like the line at the sno-cone booth, the fair keeps growing.

Three years ago, the fair changed from a small 4-H event to a larger countywide event, although no carnival games or rides are present.

This year, there are more than 300 arts and crafts entries.

That's more than ever before, Hessler said. The entries range from photographs to blankets to a model battleship made of Legos.

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Planning the fair is no easy task.

"As soon as it's over, we start again," Hessler said.

Events planned for today include a puppet show, a "Battle of the Sexes" soccer match, live music, workshops on how to make soap and a drum, a Civil War encampment, a used book sale and activities for children. Local elected officials and community activists will sit in a dunking booth.

Birds of prey on display in one booth are a barred owl, screech owl, redtail hawk, American kestrel and a great horned owl.

Llamas, chicks, chickens and Chester White hogs also are present, and several craftspeople will display their wares.

"We have such great artists out here," said Gisele Aoussat, one of the Fair Association's four vice presidents.

Not even three hours after the fair opened Saturday, sheriff's reserve deputies were directing cars to the "overflow overflow lot," Aoussat said.

By 1 p.m., three times as many people had arrived as at the peak last year, said Larry Lower, another vice president.

"And it hasn't let up," he said.

He credited the number of visitors to more publicity, a lineup of quality entertainment, fireworks slated for the first time in Berkeley Springs in more than a decade and a diverse group of exhibits.

A sawdust-covered Mike Hagstad - one of those exhibitors - could be found transforming "legacy wood" into bowls, vases, boxes and other pieces.

A phrase he coined, "legacy wood" is wood that once had significance, such as an old barn or tree. When the barn is torn down or the tree uprooted, Hagstad can take a piece of it and create an heirloom-quality piece.

He sometimes is contacted by families that have an old tree destroyed.

"You have to be gentle with it," he said. "They grew up with it. They had a swing on it."

Being able to do more with the wood than letting it rot or chopping it all up for firewood is gratifying, he said.

He emphasized, though, that nobody should cut down a tree simply so it can be "turned."

Assisted by Anne Henschel of Shepherdstown, W.Va., Hagstad has been "turning" wood for about 16 months. A piece of wood can be crafted into a bowl or other object fairly quickly, which quenches Americans' need for instant gratification, he said.

Strolling among the exhibits were Betsy Wolfe and her two children, Solomon, 3, and Silas, 11/2. "They've been crabby. We just needed to get them out," Wolfe, of Berkeley Springs, said.

Although they had just arrived, the two children had already managed to snag a couple of balloons.

Once the fair is over, Lower said association members will review comments received and see what additions can be made and afforded.

Volunteers will always be priceless, Aoussat said.

"(Volunteer work is) the backbone. Without it, we wouldn't be able to pull this off. It would've all been on paper," she said.

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