Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary

June 11, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Daria Rainieri churns apple butter Saturday at the Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Proceeds from sales of the butter benefit the Charles Town (W.Va.) Rotary Club.
By Richard F. Belisle

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — It's been 10 years since Ken and Sharon Hartman visited the Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival, but Ken needed some new leather belts, so this was the year to return.

"He said there's no other belt except the belt that you can get here," Sharon Hartman said of husband's quest for that special bit of handmade leather to hold up his pants.

"I bought three," he said. "They cost $43 each."

The Hartmans, of Martinsburg, W.Va., were among an estimated 10,000 patrons expected to pass through the festival ticket booths off Jobs Corps Road this weekend.

This year marks its 40th anniversary of the festival. It is sponsored twice a year — in June and September — by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

Pam and Ren Parziale, owners of Sycamore Pottery of Kearneysville, W.Va., have been setting up their booth every year since the first show.

"We're the last of the originals," Ren Parziale said. "No one has been here longer than us."

Pam Parziale said 26 new vendors were added this year.

Heather Morgan, executive director of the Chamber, said the new vendors bring the total of juried artists and crafters to more than 200.

Melissa Ball was one of this year's first-time vendors.

Her booth was filled the creations of her art, painting on the most delicate of mediums — turkey feathers. Her photograph-like quality work shows up in landscapes, animals, birds and more recently portraits of people and their pets.

A self-taught artist, Ball's paintings were singled out at a National Wild Turkey Federal convention.

"There's a lot of traffic at this show, but sales have been slow," Ball said. "It's one of those things I think where you have to be here a few years to get established."

Other vendors interviewed Saturday said traffic is always higher and sales brisker at the September show than the one in June.

Daria Rainieri and Nelson Parkinson were sweltering under Saturday afternoon's mid-80-degree temperatures stirring a boiling cauldron of apple butter, the annual moneymaking staple of the Charles Town (W.Va.) Rotary Club.

Last year, Parkinson said, the club made more than $4,000 selling the sweet concoction for $6 a quart and $4 a pint.

The money supports the Rotary's annual charitable programs.

Rainieri said many patrons stop by the booth and say they'll return on their way home to pick up a jar.

"They don't want to carry it around the festival," she said.

Asked how many actually come back, Nelson said about 60 percent.

"They're pretty loyal," he said.

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