Keeping it crafty: Carter County Arts and Crafts Festival celebrates 50 years

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite
Members of the Carter County Arts and Crafts Festival and Food Fair Committee celebrate 50 years. Back row: Leasa Chandler, Angie Rowe, Julie Maher and Judith Schofield. Front row:Phyllis Turner, Kaye Seeliger and Barbara Swindell.
A booth selling homemade preserves and canned items.
In 1985, the arena was opened up for booths. Today booths in the arena are the first to sell out because they offer larger spaces.
A booth selling hooded towels with popular characters.
Bright, colorful and eclectic crafted items.
A booth with a wide range of baked goods, preserves and handmade items.
Booths such as this selling Christmas decorations are especially popular.

The Carter County Arts and Crafts Festival and Food Fair will be returning to Hardy Murphy Coliseum next weekend. This year's event will be especially festive as it will be celebrating its 50th year, and special displays and decor will be set up to mark the occasion. 

Festival Publicity Chair Kaye Seeliger said she and Festival Chair Barbara Swindell have been a part of the event from the very beginning.

"Back when the festival started in 1972, things like craft festivals just were not happening. It was a totally new concept," Seeliger said. "People had just started getting into crocheting, woodworking and making crafts back then, so they ended up with all of this stuff but no place to sell it. The Carter County Extension Homemakers had a home economist named Clara at the time, and she was the one who came up with the idea of holding a festival. Who would have thought that we'd still be holding it after all these years?"

In the first year, 23 booths were set up in the south room of the coliseum, and it was a major success. Each year it continued to grow, and by 1976 all three rooms inside the coliseum were filled with 136 booths. In 1985, the demand had grown so much they opened up the arena and added another 75 booths.

"The first year we spent in the arena there was no heat, but people still loved it," Seeliger said. "Now the arena is actually our most popular area, and it's sold out first because it has bigger spaces available for the booths."

While the Extension Homemakers have always had a kitchen at the event that sells homemade soups, beans and pies, the food fair was added in 1990 to help feed the massive crowds. The food fair is now set up outside the coliseum and a wide range of fair foods and food truck foods are available to anyone wanting to purchase a good meal or quick snack.

Seeliger said several small businesses have actually got their start at the festival.

"People get a booth for a few years, and it will be so popular they decide to make a business out of it," she said. "I know that the Legacy Boutique in Lone Grove and Angel Delight both had booths with us before they opened up their stores."

Seeliger said the thing she has enjoyed most about the festival over the years is seeing all the people having a good time.

"We have a lot of fun helping people, and the vendors are always so nice," she said. "It's so much fun to see the people come out year after year and run into friends or old friends and have a great time visiting with each other."

The Carter County Arts and Crafts Festival will be at the Hardy Murphy Coliseum from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13. Over 220 booths will be set up containing crafted items and decor, art work, homemade foods and preserves, and a wide range of other items. Parking is $4 and will go to Carter County 4-H. Admission into the festival is free.