Craftsmanship

RIPLEY – Residents attended opening day of the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair Thursday where they enjoyed the sights, sounds and flavors of the granddaddy of all West Virginia craft fairs.

With partly sunny skies and a breeze blowing through the grounds of the Cedar Lakes Conference Center near Ripley, organizers, vendors and visitors all agreed the weather was perfect for the start of the 51st annual fair.

The three-day event, which runs through Saturday, features around 160 artisans, food vendors and Appalachian musicians. Products available included those made from wood, glass and metal, one-of-a kind clothing and fine art.

”It is shaping up to be a great fair this year,” said Travis Cullen, vice president of marketing for the fair.

After only being open a couple of hours, the parking area was quickly filling up.

”A lady walked up to me and said, ‘I know it is only 9 a.m. on the first day but this is, by far, the best fair in years,”’ Cullen said. ”For someone to say that between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., during the first hour, that is something.

”The weather is excellent. We are expected to have dry weather over the Fourth of July weekend. I think we are going to have an excellent fair this weekend.”

On average, the fair usually brings in 12,000-15,000 people each year.

”We are expecting 15,000 people to come on the grounds this year, if not more,” Cullen said.

Thursday was the first time Brenda Dennis of Belpre attended Mountain State Art and Craft Fair. She came with her friend Karen Grogg of Lubeck.

”I came to look at all of the crafts,” Dennis said. ”This is awesome. I have never been to Cedar Lakes before. It is wonderful.”

The two were enjoying homemade ice cream.

Grogg had been to the fair many times.

”I just like to come and see the crafts,” she said. ”Every year, you see something new that you have never seen before.

”There are people here who make crafts out of things you never would have believed,” she said. “There is a lady here with pop cans that had made jewelry out of it. I just like to come and look at everything. I really enjoy it.”

What sets the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair apart from other fairs is it is a totally juried fair, meaning vendors have their wares judged to be admitted, Cullen said.

”These people are the best of the best,” he said. ”You have that high quality craftsmanship that we all know and love and that you don’t see very much these days.”

Larry Weese Jr. of Ravenswood is a woodturner who had a booth at the fair. He was happy with the early turnout of visitors.

”There are a lot of people who are coming in and looking,” he said. ”It has been good. The weather is great.”

Weese, who was using woodburning tools to put embellishments on a wood bowl he had made, has shown at the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair before.

He always enjoys meeting people from all over.

”It is the people and their interest in it,” he said. ”They come here and are willing to spend the money on something that is handmade in West Virginia.”

Martha McGoskey, a weaver from Ravenswood who has been a fixture at the fair for years, said they seem to have more people on this first day than they have had in the past.

”It is nice outside,” she said. ”I think that is what is bringing them in, I hope anyway. A number of people have been by and I have already sold several things.”

McGoskey weaves placemats, rugs, tote bags and shawls using a loom, which holds the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads.

She lets some people try their hand at weaving, using her loom. She loves interacting with people about her craft.

”That is what I enjoy about it, the people,” McGoskey said.

Around 75 percent of the vendors come from West Virginia. The other vendors come from Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, New York, Delaware, Missouri and the Carolinas, and other states.

In addition to the vendors, there is a Civil War re-enactment camp, stunt kite flying, hunting dog demonstrations, an interactive tent where people can make and take craft items, and the West Virginia University STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Demos, which include interactive demonstrations in a number of fields.

”There is something for everyone,” Cullen said.

Roger Wilcox of Vienna has been coming to the fair for years.

”It is the idea of what these people are able to create down here, whether it is food or something artistic; it blows my mind,” he said. ”That is why my wife (Sherri) and I come. We really enjoy this. That is what it is all about, homemade West Virginia goods.”

The fair shows off the best that West Virginia has to offer.

”It is a great event with great people,” Wilcox said. ”There is a lot of great hospitality here.”

In years past, the weather has been so hot it became uncomfortable for many people to spend an entire day at the fair.

”With the weather we are having now, people can come and stay all day,” Wilcox said.

The fair is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $5 for children ages 5-12, kids under 5 are free.