Organizers of the 57th annual art and craft fair at Ripley, West Virginia, have returned the landmark event to the July 4 weekend, during which the town and fairground become one of the most celebrated destinations in the Mountain State.
After a two-year experiment during which the fair was held in September—a move intended to avoid summer heat—a resulting decrease in attendance led organizers to move the event back to July.
The fair famously coincides the historic town's Independence Day Festival, considered by many among the best in West Virginia, according to Mike Ruben, executive director of the Ripley Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ruben said the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair has been a fixture at Cedar Lakes Conference Center, adjacent to Ripley, since the state’s centennial celebration in 1963.
The festival was so successful that it inspired many festivals in other states. "Many states built their craft fairs based on the model established here," Ruben said.
"That's why it's often referred to as the granddaddy of art and craft fairs."
Debra Gard, co-president of the fair, said this year some producers are coming from adjacent states, though most will continue to hale from West Virginia. “Most of the artisans are from across West Virginia, but others are reaching out to the fair from surrounding states,” she said.
Co-president Jeanie Smith says food vendors are always fair favorites, and culinary choices will range from pepperoni rolls and kettle-cooked apple butter to cornmeal and homemade fudge. “Some of West Virginia’s best wineries are represented, too,” she said.
Gard said heritage exhibits, such as blacksmithing, shingle-splitting, and glassmaking, serve to bring back memories for older adults who may share history with the young crowd.
Hands-on interactive exhibits like New Era Kites and Appalachian Woodturners are sure to be crowd favorites, and this year's demonstrations range from cooking lessons to sheep-shearing.
“Those who attend will have rare opportunities such as turning pottery and making stained glass,” Gard added. “It’s a chance to shop and to learn."
Musical groups such as Buck McCumbers & Family highlight the entertainment schedule and are joined by quilters, folk dancers, and storytellers.
New events include a fishing derby presented by the W.Va. Department of Natural Resources that begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. West Virginia University’s Mountaineer mascot, Timmy Eads, will be greeting fans from noon until 6 p.m. on July 4.
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Hours will be from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursday (July 4) and Friday (July 5). Saturday (July 6) hours are extended from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and military personnel, and $5 for youth ages four and older, though admission will be reduced to $5 daily between 3-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 8-10 a.m. Saturday
Pets are permitted on leash, and a free golf-cart shuttle service will also be available.
Ripley and Cedar Lakes are accessible from the Ripley and Fairplain exits off I-77 in Jackson County, a 40-minute drive north of Charleston, West Virginia, and a 45-minute drive south of Parkersburg, West Virginia.
See MSACF.com for a current list of artisans, vendors, and activities.