By Joe Tennis
All over the calendar, craft fairs bloom like kudzu on tomato vines: The Mount Mitchell Craft Fair attracts 30,000 to downtown Burnsville, N.C., on the first weekend of August, while Alabama’s mini-town of Mentone may appear quite quiet during weekdays but mushrooms into a metropolis with events like Colorfest in October, a time when colorful leaves seemingly inspire all kinds of arts and crafts events.
Then come the heavy-hitters of November and December – a time when buyers shop and crafters love to sell.
But, wait - that’s not all there is to it.
“This whole thing is not about money,” says folk artist Doris Hunter of Franklin, N.C., and the founder of the Hard Candy Christmas Art & Craft Show, held at Cullowhee’s Western Carolina University on Thanksgiving weekends.
“I just fell in love with making birds from pinecones. It was so intoxicating,” Hunter says. “And, if you ever make money from people buying something that you make from your hands, it will send you to the moon.”
At the Ramsey Center arena on the Cullowhee campus of Western Carolina University, you can take a taste of the Hard Candy Christmas Art & Craft Show, presented by Mountain Artisans, on Nov. 23-24.
Originating in 1987, this event takes its name from show founder Doris Hunter, the youngest of eight children and a lady who remembers Christmas as a “transformational time” while growing up in the mountains of Franklin.
“Christmas enchanted me,” Hunter says. “We knew that, even if Christmas was tight, we could still have a hard candy Christmas.”
Coming here, these days, you get so much more: The show has grown to 115 exhibitors offering gourds, birdhouses, books, rocking chairs and carved bowls.
“And I am real particular,” Hunter says. “I am looking for hand-done products. You can have a nice, original piece, and you can meet the person who made it.”
>> FOR MORE ON CRAFT SHOWS, pick up a copy of the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Blue Ridge Country