Is Berea Craft Fair Doomed?

So today was the first Annual Berea Craft Fair minus Lila Bellando, who basically created the thing from scratch and has been its driving force throughout all its ups and downs over the years. She didn’t die or anything, she just retired. Once upon a time, it was the Premiere Craft Festival in the State of Kentucky, and people traveled from all over hell to come see the unique and beautiful arts and crafts made in this strange and interesting little Commonwealth.

The weather was beautiful today. Perfect. Warm but not hot, low humidity, light breeze in the air, the absolutely most perfect day you could possibly ask for if you’re throwing an outdoor event like this. And nobody came. Including the vendors. Well, some came. I went. But it was amazingly off.

There were maybe 1/3 as many vendors as last year, and they opened it up this year to let in outsiders from the rather snobbish Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen (which is another of Lila’s creations, to keep out “the wrong kind of crafts” because we don’t want no damn cornshuck dolls, we want handmade dulcimers) so you’d sort of expect it to be even More crowded than usual, and it’s usually shoulder to shoulder. The crowd was unusually small – the primary parking lot was maybe 3/4 full, and normally they take over an entire field across the road for overflow parking.

It was, as if, without Ms Bellando, everyone just gave up and didn’t bother. Which is really odd, in my mind. She was/is obviously a fiercely intelligent and persuasive woman, but the whole festival has grown to such an event over the past 20+ years that one can’t imagine the retirement of one person making such a huge difference. But apparently it does.

The vendors who showed up all had amazing and beautiful things to sell. Most of them, I suspect, won’t be back because there was nobody to sell their amazing and beautiful things to, and if you can’t pay your booth rental, plus your lodging and food and gas and enough profit to make it worth your while, why bother?

Sigh. Very sad.

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