Dogwood Arts and Crafts Festival celebrates 46th year

April 15, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Jerome Starr and his company, Great American Construction, have built everything from lakeside cabins to decks and room additions.

But arguably the cutest thing he has built is portable — a mini wood-slatted barn — that houses his wife Christy’s homemade signs that include one that says “Happiness is Homemade.”

Starr’s little barn of signs is just one of about 70 booths at the 46th annual Dogwood Arts and Crafts Festival that continues from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.

Christy Starr, of South Point, Ohio, said she got into her booth business by simply making one

item and then falling in love with the craft.

“I saw a sign that I liked on Pinterest and I made it for myself and liked the way that it turned out, and I just started going from there,” Starr said. “That one still hangs in my kitchen. I like the old stuff, so everything is distressed and sanded.”

On Saturday afternoon, Teena and Roman Bryson were having a great time hanging out together. After making their rounds through the booths that filled the main floor of the arena, they were taking a break from shopping Saturday, enjoying a couple of mustard-slathered pretzels at the food court.

A 19-year-old freshman at Marshall, Roman said checking out the Dogwood Festival has been an annual tradition for him and his mom since they moved back here from Arizona in 2005.

“One thing I found that was cool in particular was a booth that turns quarters into rings,” Roman said of Saturday’s event.

“We, of course, got an Arizona ring,” Teena said.

The Brysons said they love spending time together, what they nicknamed their “RoMo” (Roman and Mom) days, strolling through the festival and meeting crafters from across the country.

“With Pinterest and YouTube, you can learn how to make anything or almost anything. You just go to the internet and figure it out. But with something like this, you see people who have been working their craft for decades,” Roman Bryson said. “So it is really cool to see how they can not only make their craft so swiftly but also how they have had years to refine it and make it more efficiently. So it is really neat to see that refinement.”

Teena said they love supporting the small businesses, many of which are literally mom-and-pop operations.

“We love how passionate they are about their work, and for many crafters it is their living, and that is what West Virginia is all about,” Teena Bryson said.

PB&J Creations, out of Lynchburg, Virginia, has built up their side business to include about five festivals a year. PB&J are Pat and Barry Brookman and their daughter, Joyce.

After retiring from the military and then as a technical writer, Barry said he started exploring wood crafts and got into laser cutting Baltic birch plywood to make things such as nightlights, light boxes, tissue boxes and coaster sets.

“As a technical writer I had to use a lot of graphics and technology, so I do all of the design work on a graphics program, which programs the computer that does the laser printer,” Brookman said. “It is a combination of high-tech woodwork and handmade. We do the design work, then cut the pieces on the laser, and then my wife handpaints and stains everything and then she assembles it.”

Cindy Robinson and her daughter, Julie Schaer, of Hurricane, West Virginia, were at the festival with the family booth Compelled Designs, a custom jewelry business that specializes in making jewelry to help ministries and nonprofit organizations.

Robinson said one of her other daughters Rebekah Blocher, who lives in Alabama, has been doing the business for about 10 years, working with her sister Julie to design and make the clay art pendants, necklaces and bracelets utilizing ceramic pieces and cords created by New Day Creations (out of a foster home in Beijing), leather cuffs from Haiti Made (a job creation ministry) and Friends of Mercy House (which employs teenage mothers in Kenya).

“Julie makes a lot of the clay parts and my other daughter Rebekah designs a lot of it and paints it, and then we all pitch in on the braiding, so it is a family affair,” Robinson said. “Most of (Rebekah’s) business is to help people doing orphan adoptions and fundraising for nonprofits.”

This is the fourth year the Dogwood Festival has been consecutively held after the arena took it offline for a year to reboot it. Huntington resident Carter Taylor Seaton, who is a nationally known author as well as a renowned artist, helps jury the crafts for the arena, which runs the festival that has vendors from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Indiana.

“It’s a fun event, and there is a lot of variety and a lot of price points of things to purchase,” Seaton said. “It is juried and it is good quality, but it is not all high-end either. We have been very careful to have a broad range of things so there is a price for everybody, and it is a good time to shop for Mother’s Day and, for those thinking even further ahead, Father’s Day.”

Tickets for the Dogwood Arts and Crafts Festival are available at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena box office for $7, $5 for seniors and $5 for children ages 3-12. The first 1,000 people through the door get a free shopping bag from Sprint to fill with hand-made items from the vendors that make a range of homemade goods, such as jewelry, food products, woodwork, art, soaps and lotions, yard art, pottery and more.