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Annual fair features Appalachian arts, crafts and how-to sessions

WANT TO GO?

Mountain State Art and Craft Fair

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Thursday through Saturday

WHERE: Cedar Lakes, Ripley

TICKETS: Adults $6, seniors $5, children (6-12) $2, children under 6 free

INFO: 304-372-3247 or www.msacf.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Stained glass artist David Houser of Preston County first showed his work at the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair in 1982. Since then, he's been there every year except 1995.

The annual showcase of Appalachian artists, craftspeople, traditions and foods runs Thursday through Saturday at Cedar Lakes in Ripley.

Houser has seen a lot of changes in artisans, trends in the types of arts and crafts shown and ups and downs in attendance. He dubs the interactive booths added to the program about five years ago one of the most significant changes.

In the booths, artisans provide the materials and instruction for people to make a broom or a stained glass cube, make a basket or rag potholder, imprint paper with a fern, rubberstamp a bookmark or quilt a pincushion, among other things.

"I'll take four people on the hour," Houser said. "We'll make three-inch stained glass cubes."

Houser's wife mans the booth where they exhibit and sell his glass ornaments, panels and kaleidoscopes, but his festival days are filled with instruction time. He enjoys his teaching role and encourages other artisans to give it a try.

"I enjoy seeing people make something new. It's an introduction for them," he said. "And who knows if we might get some new recruits along the way.

The workshops might be one of the reasons attendance and the number of participants has risen in recent years, said fair chairwoman Jan Sizemore. More than 170 artists will display and sell their wares this year, up from 140 in 2011.

"We're trying to build the fair back up. The economy might actually be helping because people are looking for activities a little closer to home," Sizemore said.

She hopes attendance will hit 15,000 over the three-day fair, compared to 12,000 in 2011.

"We're competing with the Greenbrier Classic, but if people don't want to be where Tiger Woods is, this will be the place to come," she said.

New metal artists, sculptors, potters and glass blowers are registered, in addition to the regulars fair attendees have come to expect like blacksmiths, quilters, basket and broom makers, wood workers, weavers, fiber artists and calligraphers.

More practical demonstrations and products available include lye soap makers, dyes created by vegetables and corn meal grinding. West Virginia University extension agents will conduct gardening workshops all three days.

The scent of simmering apple butter made over an open fire will compete with the savory smells created by longtime favorite food vendors including those making buckwheat cakes, beans and cornbread, roasted corn, barbequed chicken and apple dumplings with homemade ice cream. 

Participative food activities include workshops by Chef Chris Bugher (vegetarian black bean chorizo cakes and mango salsa), Chef Thomas Grant (a soup, salad and sandwich menu) and Chef Bob Milam (pan-fried chicken breast with risotto and a West Virginia-grown vegetable).

The International Chili Society-sanctioned Firecracker Cast Iron Chili Cook-off and Cornbread Contest will be held Saturday. Fairgoers may purchase tickets for tastes of chili and vote for the People's Choice winner.

Also, attendees can take a load their feet and pull up a chair or bale of hay to listen to regional musicians perform bluegrass, gospel, contemporary and traditional Appalachian music throughout the fair.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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