Heritage Festival proved popular tradition

Published 3:14 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dancing, Blacksmithing, thread spinning and various homemade items available for purchase gave visitors an interesting day at the Crosby Arboretum.

An estimated 1,200 people showed up for the 6th annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival held at the arboretum Friday alone, followed by a much smaller crowd Saturday, said Senior Curator Patricia Drackett.

Vendors had tents set up selling gumbo, homemade preserves and fudge, gourds and knives. Those who had coordination and skills were invited to participate in square dancing in Pinecote Pavilion.

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Something not commonly seen these days are blacksmiths. Terrell Pickett was demonstrating his knife making skills complete with furnace at the festival. He makes knives of various types from steel for several different applications, be it for display or everyday use.

Depending on the style, he uses different types of materials. Novelty pieces are made from old rail road spikes. First he heats the spikes in his furnace and twists them to create a unique handle for the knife. Then he will polish and hone the knife to create an edge.

Knives for use are made from flat steel with a higher carbon content. The high carbon content ensures the knives edge will hold, Pickett said. Handles for the decorative knives are also made by Pickett’s own hands using antler and rare woods.

He started making the knives about five years ago to keep him occupied.

“When an old man retires he just can’t go to the front porch and sit in a rocking chair,” Pickett said.

Yarn is a common commodity at local department stores, but there is joy to be had in spinning your own. Spinning yarn from wool and cotton is a long process, but Yvette Rosen makes it her hobby. Her tools of the trade include a replica spinner made in New Zealand and wool taken from her own sheep. Before she can spin the wool she has to wash it and process it.

To dye her yarn she takes long walks in the woods looking for lichens on tree bark, certain local flowers and other wild plants. Those materials allow her to make her own dye at home.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to go for long walks in the woods collecting these things,” Rosen said.

After she spins the yarn she uses it to make clothes or blankets by knitting and weaving, Rosen said.

For almost 30 years she has been spinning her troubles away. She said she enjoys the rhythmic joy she gets from her pastime.

“You take a big basket of fluff and just sit and spin,” Rosen said.

Homemade quilts are a good companion on a cool winter night. A number of ladies at the event were promoting their fabric classes — they also make quilts for sale and charities. The class covers how to pick out the right kind of fabrics and color patterns to make appealing quilts and even clothes.

Kathy Tripp said the first step in picking out colors is to find a focus fabric with a base color, then match each other fabric to the first. After the proper fabrics have been picked out, the class makes their items.

Quilting bees to make those items are held every Thursday. The group recently made about 65 quilts for the Pearl River County Health Department and are planning to make about 60 more for at-risk babies.

The two day festival proved a big draw for those interested in history and indigenous crafts and for students on field trips. Although Katrina put a damper on the festivities for the years immediately following the hurricane, the popular event was brought back in grand fashion for those who remembered and missed this traditional celebration.