Weather, arts are hot at W.Va. crafts festival

June 14, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Leave it to the biannual Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival to combine the discoveries of "happy feet" and a piece of carefully whittled white pine, transformed into male-faced carrots.

The 37th spring edition of the weekend festival near Harpers Ferry - featuring 200 artisans, wine tasting, plenty of food and live bluegrass entertainment - kicked off Friday.

The three-day event at Sam Michaels Park is sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and is "temperature controlled," Chamber Executive Director Heather L. Morgan said, smiling amid hazy and humid conditions Friday afternoon.

Morgan wasn't disappointed with Friday's crowd, but she said organizers were a little concerned about the effect of $4-per-gallon gas prices from the outset.


"Hopefully, we are 'local' enough ... for people to make the trip," Morgan said.

In addition to the juried handmade crafts, traditional entertainment and artisan demonstrations, Morgan said organizers expanded activities for children - including a large inflatable play area - to try to attract more families to the festival.

There are plenty of repeat customers of art glass, baskets, decorative painting, dolls, leather, musical instruments, photography, pottery, toys, jewelry, fine art, furniture, metal and woodwork.

Bob and Marge Rissler of Rochester, N.Y., couldn't remember where they purchased the carved Santa Claus until they happened upon Ray Briscoe's booth and his "Whimsical Woodcarvings."

"We've had it so long ..." said Rissler, who took interest in Briscoe's carving of Santa Claus "moonlighting" as the Easter Bunny, but didn't buy it.

"I love your stuff," Rissler told Briscoe after the couple with family ties to Charles Town, W.Va., combined the cash they had on hand to buy small carvings of an elephant and a donkey painted red, white and blue.

"He's the elephant, I'm the stubborn donkey," she said after having a bit of political discourse with Briscoe.

After the couple left his booth, Briscoe said he has been part of the festival for about 20 years.

"This is one of the first shows I started with," said Briscoe, who lives in Eastern Maryland.

A few yards from Briscoe's booth, Deborah Amoss said she and her mother, Mary Lou Riddle, have been coming back for years to share their talents of arranging dried flowers and potpourri with a number of repeat customers.

"We love being here," Amoss said after customizing a sconce arrangement for a couple looking for something that would go with "a lot of purple."

Among potpourri items for sale by Stillridge Herb Farm were "happy feet," cloth-encased potpourri inserts for odorous shoes.

"We grow it, we dry it, we make it," Amoss said of the business she has known since her teenage years.

If you go

What: Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival

When: Today and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Sam Michaels Park, Job Corps Road near Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

For information, go to

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