Arbo Paths: Forge Day this Saturday

Published 4:43 pm Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pounding it out: Local metalworker Larry House from Dragon’s Watch Forge & Foundry will be demonstrating at Forge Day this Saturday Submitted photo from MSU Ag Coummunications Kat Lawrence

Pounding it out: Local metalworker Larry House from Dragon’s Watch Forge & Foundry will be demonstrating at Forge Day this Saturday
Submitted photo from MSU Ag Coummunications Kat Lawrence

By Patricia R. Drackett, Director and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture at The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service

During the winter months, there will be some outstanding opportunities to warm up around a toasty fire! One of these will be the Crosby Arboretum’s annual Forge Day this Saturday, January 28.

In its ninth year, the popular event is a “spin-off” of the blacksmith demonstration which is usually a part of our November Piney Woods Heritage Festival. Many years ago, we noticed this exhibit was a favorite with the crowd, so we decided to organize an event in January that featured a few more metalworkers and their forges. As the event was so well received, we asked if the metalworkers would consider returning the following year and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

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Forge Day brings together many metalworkers who will showcase a variety of techniques. Some will even allow attendees to try their hand at the forge.

This event is also a chance for those who are interested in metalworking to meet representatives from area organizations, including the Gulf Coast Blacksmith Association, Gulf Coast Custom Knifemakers, and the Mississippi Forge Council. These groups offer meetings and workshops where you can learn how to get started in metalworking.

Exhibitors this year will include Sid Gale, current president of the Gulf Coast Blacksmith Association, who creates decorative ironwork and whimsical items “that make people smile” from scrap tools and other discarded materials such as spoon handles, handles, rakes and shovels. Many of these pieces are then painted by his wife, Judy.

Picayune metalworker Chuck Averett, who demonstrated at the last Piney Woods festival, has family roots in blacksmithing that stretch back through several generations. His main focus is learning the proper techniques used in forge work, and his interest is tools and household items from the Colonial era. His two sons accompany him to Arboretum events, and they are becoming quite accomplished in the craft, carrying on the family tradition.

Larry House from Dragon’s Watch Forge & Foundry, located north of Picayune, will also be at Forge Day. He specializes in art metal, including forging, casting, and repousse. Each June, Larry and his wife Gwendolyn host a fire and metal art show called “Fire in the Swamp” at their shop that is free to the public.

Fire is also used at the Arboretum as a tool for managing our Savanna Exhibit. Many of the plants found in our coastal plants are “fire-adapted”, having the ability to withstand periodic wildfires.

Applying regular controlled fire in our savannas prevents the growth of small trees and maintains the herbaceous plants (grasses and perennials), allowing visitors to experience an example of a coastal landscape as it would have appeared prior to European settlement.

Terry Johnson, Crosby Arboretum’s certified burn manager, has been getting more excited with each passing day, waiting for the precise environmental conditions such as wind speed and direction, and humidity, to determine when he will be able to apply for a permit to conduct a burn and begin our “fire season”.

Prescribed fire demonstrations are potentially be available at the Arboretum on Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. through February, weather permitting. If you are interested, call the office at 601-799-2311 by 9:00 a.m. on the day you would like to attend to confirm the event will be proceeding. Admission is free for members and $5 for non-members.  Persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Forge Day takes place this Saturday, Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Non-members pay our regular site admission, $5 for adults, and $2 for children. Our winter gallery exhibit in the Visitor Center features Pearl River Paintings by Carriere artist Jeanie Latiolais, on display through the end of February.

Attend our Arbor Day Native Plant Sale on Feb. 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information on upcoming activities and events can be found on our website at The Arboretum is located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road and is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.