40th Annual Mountain Craft Days

Last week, we highlighted upcoming harvest and Halloween programs. This week, we step back a bit to visit Mountain Craft Days at Somerset Historical Center (SHC), which celebrated its 40th year this September. What began as a handful of craft demonstrators in the parking lot of the Center has grown to encompass over 120 artisans/vendors plus musicians, a magician, and great homemade food. People from the local community support the program by volunteering and by attending, and people from farther away have embraced the unique nature of this event.

Craft and trade demonstrations run the gamut from tinsmithing to weaving to sauerkraut making and log splitting (above). One of the goals of SHC is to promote and preserve traditional arts and skills. Mountain Craft Days is the high point of those efforts, although workshops and demonstrations take place the rest of the year too.

At this year’s festival, SHC dedicated the newly expanded barn at the 1830s farmstead. Site staff worked with a crew from the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps (PCC) to accurately enlarge the farmstead’s log barn. The barn can now be used to demonstrate more farm activities and will become home to some of SHC’s 19th-century farm equipment. PCC program director Paul Owens was on hand to congratulate the crew and staff on this joint effort (one of many that have taken place at SHC and at other points on the Trails of History).

Don’t think that Mountain Craft Days is all work and no play. Entertainment abounds with a variety of musical performers, including classical, celtic and folk. There’s also an 18th-century charlatan (Rodney the Younger, portrayed by Taylor Martin), who has developed quite a following with festival audiences.

Activities for children at the festival include the Young Apprentice tent where they can try out new skills and make something to take home. This year’s focus was rope-making; past years have featured paper-making, stenciling, quilting, leather-tooling, and much more. The stilts are always popular, as are the old-fashioned toys and the big pile of hay. Not a video game in sight, just a lot of happy faces.

No visit to Mountain Craft Days would be complete without checking out the food vendors (no photo here, because I don’t want you to drool on your keyboard). The Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County (PHMC’s partner at the Historical Center), local churches, and community organizations staff a wealth of food booths that offer delicious fare such as apple dumplings, chicken pot pie, buckwheat pancakes, chicken corn soup, fried corn mush, barbecued chicken, okay I have to stop now before I faint from hunger.

Mountain Craft Days always takes place the weekend after Labor Day, so mark your calendars for Sept. 10-12, 2010. You won’t be sorry.


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