Crafts of Yesteryear for Today

Crafts of Yesteryear for Today

It's all happening at George's place.

Visitors to Alexandria last weekend enjoyed 21st century art. This weekend, at the southern end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, there will be an abundance of 18th century crafts and pageantry.

Sept. 18 and 19, Mount Vernon Estate will host its annual 18th Century Craft Fair. Not only will there be a variety of crafts people creating artifacts as it was done in the time of George Washington, but attendees also can experience "a real Colonial Fair."

Entertainers are scheduled to include a Medicine Man, Swordswallower, Tightrope Walker, and Punch and Judy Show. The Fair's artisans dress in period attire as they ply their craft.

"Markets such as Mount Vernon's 18th Century Fair were common in George Washington's day and ranged in duration from a few days to several weeks. Community members attended fairs to exchange and barter goods as well as exchange gossip and enjoy theatrical shows and musical performances," said Stephanie Brown, Mount Vernon's director of marketing.

"The earliest known fair in the Mount Vernon area was in 1752 in a town soon to be named Alexandria. The city's local event was held twice a year, in spring and fall, and lasted two to three days. George Washington himself often attended," she said.

This year's Fair features 34 artisans, creating everything from country baskets to pewter pieces to pottery to furniture. They will be joined by the wide array of entertainers and the colonial fife and drummers, according to Rebecca Ryser, media relations, Mount Vernon Estate.

For those who wish to get a better view of both Mount Vernon Estate and the Potomac River shoreline, there will be free sightseeing cruises compliments of Spirit Cruises and the Potomac River Company. Plus, there will be plenty of Fair food.

PARTICIPATING ARTISANS will demonstrate their crafts and sell the end results. Sonny Fletcher of Lexington, Va., is among the artisans exhibiting this year. He has been a full-time professional potter for 30 years, Brown says.

"Working in clay, he has created an artistic style he calls Organic Symmetry. He gains inspiration from the symmetry of nature in such things as flowers, leaves, feathers, and so forth," she said. This is Fletcher's third year to exhibit his craft at the Fair.

Operating under the name of Henderson and Vinci Historical Cabinet Makers & Joyners, Walt and Mary Ann Henderson helped to originate Mount Vernon's 18th century event. Using period tools and methods, they professionally make furniture and wooden goods that are characteristic of the 18th and 19th century.

The Hendersons, of Leesburg, have become scholars of trades, commerce, and the daily life of that century. This has enabled them to produce historically accurate goods for buyers who appreciate the fine detail of their work.

Other artisans visitors to the Fair will encounter include:

* Michelle Hollick, proprietress of Stencils by Michelle, is a resident of Hollis, N.H. She creates floorcloths and placemats for colonial-style decorating.

* Jeffrey Flint from Mohnton, Pa., is a specialist in the creation of Windsor chairs. He has participated in seven of the last eight Mount Vernon Craft Fairs, using period tools to create his chairs.

* Mike Johnson of Wintergreen Farm from Floyd, Va., uses antique woodworking tools to fashion walking sticks, stools, boxes, lanterns, and other items. He has participated in every Fair since its commencement.

IN ADDITION TO PROVIDING entertainment and a social venue, the original fairs also served as an educational experience for the people of the time. Over the years, George Washington and other members of his family learned about other distant areas of the world from itinerant entertainers.

Visitors this weekend will be treated to the following entertainment in two separate venues on the Estate: Market Square and The General's Stage. Performances change each half hour, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 4 p.m. Most repeat throughout the day.

* Market Square: 9:30 a.m. The Martin Family Band; 10 a.m.,

11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. Otto the Swordswallower; 10:30 a.m., Noon, 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. The Ship's Company Countrymen: Sailor Songs and Tales; 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. Signora Camella Bella, Equilbrist & Juggler.

* The General's Stage: 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. An Audience with Gen. George Washington; 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. Mr. Bayly, Conjurer & Magical Entertainments; 10:30 a.m., Noon, 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. Punch & Judy with The James Rose Puppets; 11 a.m., 2 p.m. The Martin Family Band.

In addition to the repeat performances there will also be special presentations by The Colonial Singers of West Potomac High School, scheduled for 1 p.m. at The General's Stage and 2:30 p.m. at Market Square.

The Fair opens each day at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Fair activities are included in regular admission: Adults $11, children 6 to 11, $5; children under five years of age, free. Tickets are available at the Main Gate.