Sunday, May 14, 2000

Event is chance to shuck city ways

There's mess of country cookin', crafts, music

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mountain culture was spread throughout Coney Island on Saturday as an estimated 30,000 people experienced it through music, food and handcrafted displays of ingenuity at the 31st Appalachian Festival.

(David Baxter photo)
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        Foot-stompin' music, resonating from a banjo or a fiddle, set the tone of the festival, accompanied by the aroma of mountain food being cooked over a fire.

        History was raw and real here as sisters Geneva Pearl of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Lena Beckley of Florence, coal miner's daughters, talked about and displayed their craftsmanship.

        Their booth held items made entirely from corn husks (or corn “shucks” as they prefer to call them), corn silk and corncobs.

        “My mom taught me how to make these things when I was 9 years old,” Mrs. Pearl said.

        “We came from a family of 15 children, and we were taught that nothing was supposed to be wasted.”

        The sisters proved that with their display of dolls, pipes, baskets, soap dishes, grab bags and wall hangers all made from corn husks, silk, stalks and cobs.

        “We could make just about anything from corn shucks,” Mrs. Pearl said.

        “Some people say "corn husk,' but around Carcassone where we grew up, it is "corn shucks.'”

        Mrs. Beckley said she is thinking about changing the name of her display from Lena's Creations to “All Shucks.”

        “What you see here is what our background taught us,” she said.

        “Our father was a Baptist minister and a coal miner. Neither one paid much money.”

        Pam Engle, Mrs. Pearl's daughter, of Hot Springs, Ark., created a gadget she hasn't named yet.

        It's made of sticks glued together and, oh yeah, corn shucks.

        “I was in the back yard cleaning up and I saw all the sticks. I said to myself, "They have to be good for something.'

        “I used different colors of spray paint on the sticks after I glued them together, built a little bird's nest out of corn shucks to set on top of them, and there you have it: something made out of something,” she said.

        Wayne and Sharon Eggemeier of Independence displayed a piece of mountain culture through their living quarters set up in a tent using furniture and kitchen utensils of a hundred years ago.

        At nightfall, they don't pack up and go to a hotel — they sleep in the tent and fix breakfast in a Dutch oven and on a grill over an open fire.

What: Appalachian Festival.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today.
Where: Coney Island, Anderson Township.
Admission: $5, $3 seniors, $1 ages 11 and under; $3 parking.
        Sherman Wooten, who turns 90 next month, is a regular at the Appalachian Festival. He hails from Hyden, Ky., where he makes furniture out of black walnut, cherry, oak and other wood.

        “I never bought a piece of wood from a lumber company. I cut it myself,” he said.

        Among all the handmade quilts and clothing, furniture, pottery, metal sculptures, dried flower arrangements, handcrafted jewelry, toys and leather goods, the most impressive thing to Michael Tolle of Lakeside Park was a mess of redfish.

        His wife, Pam, “went all over the place, looking at everything. I stayed next to the food. My only complaint is that they didn't serve enough of it,” Mr. Tolle said.


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