Kentucky Guild of Artists & Craftman's Fair
October 8-10 2004 Kentucky Guild of Artists & Craftman's Fair Twice a year we do the Craftsman Fair. This is a little different from other fairs and festivals because they actually limit who can set up a booth. Not only do you have to belong to the guild, but it's quite a difficult process. For one thing, you have to prove to them that you actually have talent. You'll still see a lot of traditional Appalachian crafts, but they're likely to be more of a high caliber. That's why you have to pay to get into the fair. The best thing about it is that it's a great place to do some Christmas shopping. You'll find things there that you're likely not to find anywhere else.
Southeast of Lexington, Berea is first known for the home of Berea College. The first of it’s kind, Berea College was created in 1855 to provide and education to bright young people that did not have the economic background to attend higher education.
There is a “catch” to the free college education after passing the rigorous entrance requirements. You must “give back” to the college after you leave in some form.
I was fortunate to meet one of the school’s trustees. He attended the school, worked in the local businesses to pay for his food, room and books. Upon graduation he received a scholarship to Harvard Law. He worked in Boston’s meat packing plants to keep he and his wife in food while he attended Harvard. Upon graduation they moved back too Berea where he practiced law for over 40 years.
"Boone Tavern Hotel"
Berea is in the area where frontiersman Daniel Boone lived for part of his life. There are a number of tributes to his life. One, a centerpiece of the town's "down town area" is the Boone Tavern Hotel.
This was created following a dinner party by the College President's wife where 300 guests were served. Nellie Frost told her husband that they had to have a "guest house" to ensure out of town guests had a local place to stay when visiting.
Berea is also known for the location of many craft stores. There is a wonderful craft "hall" at the entrance to the town and dozens of craft and art stored in town to visit.
Berea- Arts Capital of Kentucky
"Appalachian Arts Capital"
There are other towns that can admirably claim to be the "Appalachian Arts Capital" of the World, but I really think Berea has a corner on the market. I love Gatlinburg, but Berea lacks the touristy aspect of that well visited place.
Of course, Berea didn't begin as an arts and crafts place. In the 1890’s, there was a growing national interest in the culture and traditions of Appalachia by writers, academics, missionaries, and teachers. Berea was just far enough east to be considered "Appalachian" (the close-by mountains helped as well) but far enough west to not be TOO Appalachian so it was a safe place for many college donors to invest their money. Back then, some of the Berea College students who couldn't afford tuition would bring things such as homemade quilts in exchange for their chance to study. You can see what happened next-the homemade items became a hot commodity and an idea was born.
The College president, William Frost, took a lot of the items with him on his fund raising trips to the North. Seeing a market for the items he established the first Berea College Fireside Industries. Frost encouraged people to move to Berea, and the college built a loom house and hired a supervisor to train and maintain the quality of student work.
To this day, many shops carry items made by the college students. Some of the shops soley carry college crafts and this is a way that a lot of the students fund their way through school. Some things don't change.
"On the Way"
Berea is an interesting place. There's such a difference in Richmond and Berea that they may as well not even be in the same county. Where Richmond has become very suburban and is outgrowing its box, Berea has almost no expansion in progress. Settled in the Appalachian foothills, it's a beautiful little mountain town filled with crafts and music. Definitely worth a stop if you're traveling up or down I-75.
"More Than Crafts"
If you're not into brooms and quilts, Berea offers other activities as well. There are some fantastic hiking opportunities in surrounding parks like Anglin Falls, the Berea College Forest, Indian Fort Theater, and the Owsley Fork Reservoir.
Personally, I love to hike in the Indian Fort Theatre. If you climb up to one of the Pentacles (not an easy walk although the climbing bit doesn't actually come until the end) you can get a great view of the surrounding counties. It's a good place for a picnic.
Yes, all photos are by me unless otherwise noted.
Countryside Around Berea
Most of these photos were taken on the old road between Richmond and Berea, past NACCO factory and across the interstate. When I first moved to Richmond 21 years ago this was prime farm land. Now, unfortunately, the land is being bought and built up, and subdivided and it's almost not even country anymore. Still, there are some pretty shots to be found.