Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 7, 1974 · Page 64
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July 7, 1974

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 64

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 7, 1974
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Page 64
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: ' v j .» r t **» v y i*-. ? "KV 1 " \\ here there's sheep, you need shearers. This wa.«* a daily exhibition al Texas Arts and Craft* Kair. Texas in Second Place By Helen Carper There's a little bit of Texas that will forever be West Virginia. I found it, unexpectedly, 70 miles north of San Antonio, deep in the heart of "Kerr Country." I don't know what I expected of the 3rd annual Texas State Arts Crafts Fair. Perhaps a bit of the garishness of "Giant," with the sound and the excitement of a rodeo. Certainly, I expected Texas fair goers to be dressed in hundred-dollar boots and ten-gallon hats. Instead, spread across the beautiful campus of Schriener College in Kerrville, Texas, the bright hubbub of the fair -- red and white striped tents, pioneer crafts, people in ordinary dress -seemed strangely familiar. Surely. I have been here before! It was not until I relaxed over lunch, with time to read my program, that I learned it was more than typical Texas hospitality that was making me feel so much at home. The Texas fair was a replica of the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair, held at Cedar Lakes each July 4th weekend. For good reason. Phil Davis, director of the Texas Fair. says. West Virginia was the inspiration, model and guide for their production. In August, 1967, members of the Texas Tourist Development Agency took an exhibit to the Canadian National Exhibition. They were attracted to a "curious" display near their own. It was notable for its lack of the usual travel photographs, and for its shelves of handcrafted items. The Texans learned that this strange collection represented West Virginia, and was the product of an arts and crafts program developed by West Virginia's Department of Commerce. The Texans were so intrigued with the West Virginia program they decided to investigate further to see if they might develop something like it in Texas. In December, 1967, two of their representatives came to West Virginia for a two- day interview with members of the West Virginia Department of Commerce. The following July, another Texas delegation arrived to study the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair at Ripley. The visitors we're fascinated, but questioned the availability of resources for such a venture in Texas. Strangely, they did not know if they had the craftsmen for such a program. Even more strange to one used to thinking of Texas as an oversized Fort Knox, was the question: "How would they finance it?" » In 1970, another group of Texans came to our Fair. In 1971, when the now familiar faces arrived again, they were met with '"My God, haven't you done anything yet? Seems like you Texans have been studying us a long time.'" That was enough. The following June, under the direction of Phil Davis, Texas produced an arts and crafts fair. Davis had accomplished the seemingly impossible. Starting in September, with no site, no money, and no known craftsmen, he had secured grants of $15.000, the use of the campus of Schreiner College tor a site, and he had turned Texas upside down and shook it searching for craftsmen. The fair was a success. It cost $53.000 to produce, but the original $15.000 was still in the bank when the bills were paid. Over 25.000 persons attended in 1972: 36.000 came to the second one; and in 1974. the Texans were prepared to welcome 45.000. * Don Page, a member of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, remembers as a time of developing friendship the five years it took Texas to get our idea off their ground. The department here enjoyed the part they played in helping the Texans develop their own fair and they gave them all the help they could as the visitors gathered data to support their proposal at home. On one occasion, the Texans used pictures of our Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair to advertise their own. Naturally, for their first fair they had no .photographs of a previous one, so they borrowed West Virginia's. It became a bit confusing when Texas and West Virginia, advertising their respective fairs in the Houston Astrodome, used identical pictures. With tongue in cheek. Charles Scott, who represented West Virginia there, directed inquiries to the Texas delegation when his own materials were exhausted. The Texans may have felt some satisfaction when K. ;Carl Little, director of the West Virginia program, decided to switch camps and join forces with the Texans. He is now the director of the Arlington Convention Visitors Bureau. *· While the Texas fair is modeled after ours, it still has a flavor of its own. . There is a daily demonstration of sheep shearing. Craft exhibits include blacksmithing, lye soap making, rope making, gun engraving, and spur making. Food specialities reflect Mexican ties in such dishes as Mexican strip steak and Jalapena fried chicken. I gave the Mexican foods a wide berth! The evening before going to the Texas fair, I had a brush with a Jalapena pepper steak in San Antonio. It took a glass of milk and a serving of vanilla ice cream to put out the fire. Make mine pit barbecue. The widely advertised sourdough bread just wasn't there, perhaps because it was the first day of the fair, or perhaps the baker just didn't show. Fair directors say these things happen in the best of organizations. A craft or an exhibit promised in August may be unavailable next June. The Texans have imaginatively solved one problem we're still working on -- that of traffic control and speedy access to the fair grounds. They boast 50 acres of free parking at some distance from the actual" fair site. Visitors are shuttled from the parking lot to the fair grounds with tractor-drawn. low flatbed trailers on which what looks like two church pews have been fastened back-to-back. Everyone seems to enjoy the ride. Our Department of Commerce is a little touchy on the subject of traffic control. Considering the enormity of the task, they feel they're doing a good job. After all, Texas has not yet had to cope with 79,000 fair goers. Notwithstanding the Commerce Department's position, the Mountain State Arts Crafts Fair is choked by the access problems and many would-be visitors just won't fight it. If Texas officials have found distant parking and the use of shuttle buses practical - and the National Park System is using them more and more -- why couldn't they be a solution for us? Perhaps school buses could be pressed into service, since they are idle in July. With the Texas passion for being first, there may come a day when their arts and crafts fair will be bigger and better than ours--but not yet. Maybe I'm looking into a biased mirror, but as much as I enjoyed the Texas production. West Virginia's is still the "fairest" of all. 4m CHARLESTON. W. VA. ·M\ 7. 197-1 Sunda\CGZette-M ail

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