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Heat may have thinned attendance at North Mountain Arts Festival

June 07, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -- The sweltering heat Saturday afternoon might have thinned attendance at the North Mountain Arts Festival.

With temperatures soaring and the few visitors making their way toward their vehicles, festival chairwoman Kristin Nelson announced the five-hour festival's premature end after the bluegrass band Sleepy Creek capped off a number of acoustic performances.

Buoyed by the positive reception received in last year's event, Nelson said she decided to try to make the showcase for local artisans an annual event behind her store at 201 N. Mary St.

"The locals that come through here are very supportive," said Nelson, who estimated several hundred visited the festival in the first few hours Saturday.

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"Last year was kind of a surprise, it was a good surprise," Nelson said.

This year, one artisan suspected the dragging economy, coupled with higher gas prices, dampened the turnout.

But there was no denying the heat, which collected in shelters protecting displays of paintings, jewelry, pottery and a number of other crafts.

At his booth, artist David F. Heatwole offered festival-goers the opportunity to put on a pair of 3-D glasses to see his paintings.

When asked what one work on display Saturday would best representative himself, Heatwole pointed to a canvass that he said was titled "Molecules of Faith" and contained several symbols of his Christian beliefs.

"There's more to this reality than what we see," Heatwole said. "We're all just molecules ... but the question is are we using the molecules that we've been given in the best way?"

Hedgesville Mayor Mary S. Catlett said she hoped the festival would continue, given the economic benefit it means for the small town.

"I am very supportive of the festival," Catlett said. "I'm hoping it keeps going."

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