Oldest, Longest, Highest … and Occasionally Hottest (2,300 Degrees)
A lot of things went missing last year because of the pandemic. One of these was what would have been the 64th annual Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair, which has taken place perennially since 1956. Before the pandemic interrupted the flow, it was considered the longest continuously running outdoor craft festival in the state, and among the oldest craft shows in the country. The heritage event — named for the eastern United States’ highest mountain peak nearby — resumes this month in Burnsville’s Town Square.
“Last year was the first year in the history of the event that it has ever been missed or canceled,” confirms Christy Jones, executive director of the Burnsville-Yancey Chamber of Commerce, the event’s sponsoring organization.
This year’s fair will feature more than 200 artisans (pottery, ceramics, photography, woodcarving, furniture building, stonework, painting, drawing, jewelry, metalwork, sculpture, glass blowing, candle making, and more). The quality of the work is assured, as this is a juried display.
Local entertainment is always a big part of the event, too, and this year will include country, bluegrass, and gospel bands, and local clogging teams.
“Yancey County has a wealth of local artists,” notes Jones. “More than 30 from Mitchell County will be participating in the Fair.” Other artists will be coming from eight nearby states. Jones says a major contributing factor to the area’s abundance of creatives is the presence of the renowned Penland School of Craft, located just 20 minutes from Burnsville.
Among the artists at this year’s fair are Chuck Young and Deana Blanchard of Selena Glass & Metal, located in Burnsville. Young explains, “We like to call our work ‘Sculpture with Attitude.’ It’s primarily metal forged and fabricated. Vitreous enamel paint is used to add color.” He adds, “We have developed a very stable rust patina that we use on a lot of the metal.” Their pieces include gates, railings, objets d’art, flowers, and more.
“The Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair is always a fun show to do,” says Young. “We get to see a lot of our neighbors and friends, plus all the visitors to Burnsville.”
Another participating artist from Burnsville is first-timer Dennis McAvoy, who creates functional and decorative pottery. “What sets my [work] apart are the glazes,” says McAvoy. He heats his to over 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, then slowly reduces the temperature, during which time crystals grow randomly in the melted glaze. The kiln is then turned off and cooled to room temperature.
He says it’s always a surprise to open the kiln to see what has happened. No two pieces can ever be the same.
Kem Muller’s company is Burnsville Candle Company, where she hand pours natural soy candles in small batches. Muller says this will be her first time at the fair, as well. “I’m very excited [and] humbled to be in the company of the incredible local artists who will be vendors at this year’s event. This region has such a wealth of talent to showcase.
“A small, female-owned artisan business such as my own is very fortunate to be given the opportunity to introduce myself to the local community who may not yet be aware of my existence — as well as to the travelers coming into the area to attend the fair.”
The 64th Annual Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair, a free event, happens Friday, Aug. 6 and Saturday, Aug. 7, 9am-5pm, in downtown Burnsville. Shuttles leave from the parking lot at Roses Discount Store (120 Reservoir Road). To learn more, including a list of scheduled entertainers, visit yanceychamber.com/crafts-fair.