Vendors display their wares at W.Va. arts and crafts event

September 25, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - For the 62nd time, a vacant field between Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown and Charles Town, W.Va., will be trampled over by thousands of people looking at and buying crafts and artwork at the Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival.

Held twice a year, in June and September at Sam Michaels Park off Job Corps Road, the event, the largest fund-raiser of the year for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, first was held in June 1972. The September festival was added in 1976.

Mary Via, executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, has chaired the festival since 1981.

"I've been here for 48 of them," she said.

The festival field holds about 200 juried vendors, Via said.

Landis Whitsel, an artist from Waynesboro, Pa., is one of three judges hired to review the vendors. On duty Friday, the first day of the weekend festival, Whitsel and his colleagues were checking vendors to ensure that the quality of their crafts and artwork is maintained.


All vendors submit examples of their work to the judges at a meeting in January to be approved for the festival.

"This is a juried show," Whitsel said. "We have to make sure that the quality of the show stays up, that what the vendors offer is what they were juried for. That's the reason this show has lasted so long, because of its quality. It's what people expect. If you don't jury, it could turn into a flea market."

Many vendors return year after year. One, Jack Breidenbach of Jefferson, N.C., maker of handmade wooden mantels and shelves, said Mountain Heritage is his only show.

"It always does well for me," he said.

Ren and Pam Parziale, of Sycamore Pottery near Charles Town, have been showing their wares at the festival since the first one.

Ken Tillman and Linda Vinton of Wilmington, Del., owners of TeePees from Rattlesnake Crossing, are back for their 10th year. The couple makes their living sewing and painting teepee playhouses, which they sell for between $79 and $99.

"This is our 24th show of the year," Tillman said.

Another example of the festival's longevity was hanging around the neck of Helen Holub, 80, of Baltimore. She and her daughter, Alicia Holub, 47, also of Baltimore, said they have been coming to the festival for years.

Both sported fabric straps they called bottle holders. A plastic water bottle hung from the end of the strap draped off Helen Holub's shoulder.

"I bought it here years ago," she said. "It's been to Australia, New Zealand, England and Florida. Next week, it's going to Indiana. It cost $10, but it was worth it. I don't think they have them here anymore."

Members of the Rotary Club of Charles Town also were back Friday with their steaming apple butter cauldron. Bill Palmisano was working the paddle. The club makes from $4,000 to $5,000 per year selling 175 to 200 gallons of the sweet-tasting substance.

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