Celebrate regional history and culture at Crosby Arboretum’s Piney Woods Festival next Saturday

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2022

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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One of the Crosby Arboretum’s most popular events, the Piney Woods Heritage Festival, will return next weekend, on Saturday, November 19.  During the pandemic, we held abbreviated versions of this long-running event, and we are pleased to be offering an opportunity for the community to again experience a taste of “heritage days” with demonstrations and exhibits that will showcase traditional crafts and practices reflecting the history and culture of the Piney Woods Region.

Knowledge of the traditional skills and crafts that were once a part of everyday rural life, for example, butter churning, soapmaking, rope and basketmaking, and spinning, quilting and weaving, are fast-becoming lost arts. Many of the demonstrators seek to engage interest in the practice of their particular skill or craft, which serves to keep these traditions alive.

By observing hands-on demonstrations of “old-timey” traditions at the Arboretum’s Heritage Festival, such as the blacksmithing demonstration that will be conducted by Charles Polk, the visiting public will be able to get an idea of the skill behind the once critically important trades. Also, we are excited to have Kevin Kennedy at the festival, who will demonstrate his hit-and-miss engine powering a mill for stone ground cornmeal and grits.

In “pioneer days”, being resourceful was a necessity. Knowing how to preserve food, and to cultivate a successful vegetable garden were critically important to supporting a family. Cooking, spinning, weaving, and sewing were valuable skills for the woman in charge of a household to master. People living in these times knew how to “recycle”. Rags were woven or crocheted into rugs, and quilts were fashioned from scraps of cloth.  In “olden days”, resourceful pioneers used natural materials to create durable baskets, such as crafting splits of white oak into baskets of all sizes to carry items.

Matthew Herron, Founder and Education Director of the Coastal Plains Outdoor School located in Lumberton, Mississippi, will be demonstrating basket-making as well as traditional God’s eye crafts for kids.  Matthew led a program this past March at Crosby Arboretum where he explored the true meaning of “sense of place”, speaking about the ecological and cultural value of native plants for food, medicine, pigments, fibers and more, and showed us examples of handmade baskets and rope that he had crafted from various fibers.

The Pineywoods Cloggers will take the stage on the Pinecote Pavilion at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, which will be followed by bluegrass and traditional stringed music. Take a stroll and check out demonstrations of fly tying, sewing and embroidery, and more.  While the event this year may not be as large as in past years, you’re bound to hear some great music, enjoy a conversation or two, and leave knowing a little more than when you came in.

The Extension Service is a great resource for research-based publications that cover “old timey” topics such as home canning or making jellies and preserves. Search by keyword on the Extension website at http://extension.msstate.edu/ to view or download publications such as “The Complete Guide to Home Canning” (Pub. No. 1152), or “Pickles, Relishes, Jellies, Jams, and Preserves” (Pub. No. 220.  For information on growing home fruits and vegetables, just search by keyword to access these publications as well.

On your next visit, swing by our newly renovated Pollinator Garden, courtesy of a Coast Electric Round-Up community grant. We have been seeing large numbers of butterflies, including the zebra longwing.  Once you see this butterfly, you won’t soon forget it.  This species is usually found much further south, such as in Texas and Florida, where has been designated the state butterfly. Its host plant is passionvine.  Our brave passionvine has held on through the year, still producing a few news leaves now and then, although it has been decimated several times this by both zebra longwing and gulf fritillary caterpillars.  When you visit the butterfly garden, snap a photo of Dr. Eddie Smith’s poster on “Common Mississippi Butterflies and Their Host Plants”, and pick up a brochure from the kiosk on our top-performing perennials in the garden this year.

If you should happen to know of someone who might be interested in providing a demonstration or exhibit on a heritage craft or skill, either this year or for next, please let them know to give us a call at 601-799-2311 for more information.

Come visit us next Saturday, November 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and enjoy traditional music and demonstrations of crafts and skills. Admission (non-members and members), adults $6, children $3.  For more information, visit the website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu<http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu>. The Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (entrance gate closes at 4:00 p.m.) and is located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road. Leashed pets are always welcome!