Arts, crafts fair helps fund projects at Caledonia State Park

July 10, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL


Working under original gaslights Saturday in the Thaddeus Stevens Blacksmith Shop, blacksmith Pam Sheirer cranked the blower, hammered out iron hooks and educated visitors on the art of blacksmithing.

Sheirer works in the forge every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but her demonstration Saturday was part of the huge Caledonia State Park arts and crafts fair.

The 24-year-old event, which included a strolling bagpiper, Ecuadorian music, lots of food and 196 vendors, is sponsored by the all-volunteer Friends of Caledonia State Park.


Gilson Kendall of Fayetteville, vice president of the group, said that between 10,000 and 11,000 people usually attend. Proceeds from the fair are used to purchase items that the state doesn't have funding for, he said. In recent years the group has purchased playground equipment, benches, made campground improvements and paid for a new roof on the blacksmith shop.

The building in which Sheirer works is not the original Thaddeus Stevens shop; that was burned by the Confederates in 1863 because Stevens was an abolitionist.

From 1907 to 1925, the stone structure served as the station for the Chambersburg and Gettysburg Electric Railway Trolley, for which the fare was 15 cents. The present bicycle trail follows the trolley tracks. The Kittochtinny Historical Society converted it to a blacksmith shop in 1937.

Sheirer said she runs the shop as a heritage blacksmith shop, not as a Civil War-era shop. The equipment is from different eras; the bellows were made in England in 1785, the blower is from 1881 and the hearth from 1923.

"This is a mishmash of what blacksmithing was through the ages," she said.

Largely self-taught, Sheirer creates iron shish kebob skewers, hooks, holders for bamboo lights and stainless steel hair sticks. She also works in copper, making roses and other decorative items.

She swung a four-pound hammer to pound a piece of iron into a leaf hook.

"Your shoulders get tired," Sheirer said. "If my wrist or arms starts hurting, I'm doing it wrong."

Marda Mattox of Hacienda Shiloh (House of Tranquility) was selling her garlic, herbs and cosmetic products at the fair for the first time. She grows shallots, herbs and 26 varieties of garlic at her home near Gettysburg, Pa. She specializes in hard-to-find herbs and unusual shade plants, selling mostly to tourists coming to Gettysburg, she said.

Another popular booth was Civil War Ghosts, where Tim Johnson of Falling Waters, W.Va., displayed his artistic double-exposure photos. The black-and-white depictions were taken at various historic battlefields and are not computer-enhanced, he said.

"The Escort" shows two dying Confederate soldiers with a heavenly female figure in a long white gown.

Shirley and Mike Reilly, who recently moved to Chambersburg, Pa., from Florida, left the park carrying two large bags.

"It was a grand craft fair, very unique," Shirley Reilly said. "I got a lot of candles."

"Forty dollars worth of candles," her husband added.

Karen Shaw of Greencastle, Pa., hadn't attended the fair for 10 years, but came this year and bought a bench made of old barn boards and a chair made from an old shutter. She plans to put the bench on her deck with a Boyd's Bear on it.

Accompanying her was Mary Carbaugh of Marion, Pa., who also bought a bench and will put it on her porch, she said.

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