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Third Annual Blue Ridge Arts and Crafts Festival celebrates Appalachian culture

By Staff | May 3, 2019

Craggy Island band members Susan Withers, on violin, and Patrick Fenning, on guitar, perform traditional Irish and American music, during the Blue Ridge Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Celebrating Appalachian culture for the first time this year at Sam Michael’s Park, the Third Annual Blue Ridge Arts and Crafts Festival drew attendees from around the region on Saturday.

While some of the artists and artisans said they missed being at the former historic location, many attendees said they preferred the new location, which was the host to over 50 vendors selling everything from bird seed wreaths, to CBD oil, to hand-rolled ice cream.

“I went to this festival at the other location,” said Sara Howle, of Harpers Ferry. “We just came in, but I think this is a better location. The shade from the trees is a nice bonus.”

Some attendees came from as far away as Long Island, New York, including Bill Nelson, who was browsing at the festival with old friend and Falling Waters resident David Bartles.

“It’s what I wanted to see. I like to see local crafts being carried out and keeping this tradition alive,” Nelson said, mentioning Bartles takes him to see something new about West Virginia culture every time he visits. “This fellow knows West Virginia like the back of is hand, and every time I come he shows me something new — it’s always interesting.”

Community members order gourmet popcorn at Mountaineer Popcorn's booth in the Blue Ridge Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

According to Bartles, sharing his knowledge of West Virginia is a fun way to reconnect with his former neighbor.

“The West Virginia experience, it’s something that’s worth hanging on to. I really like seeing that people make these things — I like to see all that creative, artistic talent,” Bartles said, before mentioning one other aspect of the festival he was enjoying. “I like the music, too. And that’s something that hasn’t changed a lot in West Virginia history. We’ve still maintained that sound.”

Craggy Island band members Susan Withers, on the fiddle, and Patrick Fenning, on the guitar, performed throughout the afternoon, dancing along as they played Irish and American traditional music.

As the band continued to play, Angie Evler, of York, Pennsylvania, relaxed with her friend, Katherine Daugherty, of Dallastown, Pennsylvania.

“We’re from out of town and were looking for something different to do,” Evler said, mentioning the two friends had bought items at the CBD vendor’s and woodcrafter’s booths. “Everything we’ve seen so far is very neat, very cool.”

From left, Landscape Glass Works owner Ed Symonds, of Bunker Hill, talks about his craft with Harpers Ferry residents Sara Howle, nine-year-old Zaylyn Howle, seven-year-old Zamyyah Howle, eight-month-old Tovryn Howle and Greg Howle, during the Blue Ridge Arts and Crafts Festival Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

While the festival may have attracted many people from outside of the Eastern Panhandle, some local residents also came out to join in the fun.

“This is our first year coming to this festival. It’s neat, I’d definitely come again,” said John Skerda, of Middleway, who came with his wife, Raelene Skerda.

“We try to do something fun on Saturdays, before we settle in for the weekend,” Raelene said, mentioning the couple had another reason they came to the event. “We like to buy local.”