Old Deerfield Fall Craft Fair celebrates 40 years – The Recorder

DEERFIELD — Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association Executive Director Timothy Neumann isn’t the only fixture at the organization celebrating four decades in Old Deerfield this year: the Fall Old Deerfield Arts and Crafts Fair that he founded will open for its 40th season on Sept. 19 to showcase the arts, crafts, food and other creations of its many exhibitors.

The fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20. It will be held on the grounds of the organization’s Memorial Hall Museum.

Neumann said he’s watched the fair evolve over the past 40 years and change with the tastes of attendees and the region. What started as a collection of about ten craftspeople who set up on the lawn in 1975 to sell their work to visitors of the museum eventually grew to accommodate up to 225 vendors and 18,000 visitors over two days during its peak in the 1980s. During those fairs, he said the organization opted not to open the museum to avoid the wear and tear of thousands of people passing through.

“It was very hippie-esque. The rules said you had to bring your own table or blanket to sell on,” said Neumann of the early fairs.

The early ‘90s saw the fair take on a country theme as that style of furniture and decor came into style, and he saw it through the tough early years of the new millenium, when financial crises and recessions made selling handcrafted merchandise a difficult career at which to make a living.

“The worst was in 2009 or 2010, it was a setback for a lot of people in crafts market,” Neumann said. “During the peak in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they didn’t have that or the competition or knock-offs from places like China. That hit craftspeople really hard.”

Now, Neumann said he’s seen many of the craftspeople modify the crafts that they produce to keep up with the times, and the fair’s been doing well. At least one of the leatherworkers in the festival has taken to making customizable iPhone and laptop cases.

In recent years, Neumann said the fair has seen between 7,000 and 9,000 patrons on average.

The roughly 150 exhibitors who will display their wares at the fair this year are chosen by a jury based on the quality of their work, according to Ella Colton, the event’s new coordinator. This year, they’ll include a mix of long-time veterans of the fair and new participants alike, including Scout Cuomo, a local painter from Shelburne Falls, New York-based leatherwork belt maker Jorge Gill, Dan Wetterwald, who makes wooden bowls, bottles and other items, cartoonist Lois Barber, dressmaker Sharon London Designs, and Greenfield’s Tony Derricotte, who fashions Adirondack-style chairs out of old wine barrels.

Fair stalwarts will include metal sculptor Daniel Riccio, Janine King and her handmade fiber art bags and purses, crochet artist Shelly Terault of Montague, and glassblower Robert Brown, among others.

There will also be a variety of artisan food vendors, offering things like infused oils, cookies, vinegar, hot sauces, salsa and pickles, as well as other vendors serving up fresh Thai food, ice cream, clam chowder and fried dough.

PVMA’s Jurassic Roadshow, a project that educates people about the Connecticut River Valley’s prehistoric past, will have a tent with fossils for show and sale, as well as activities for younger visitors, who will have the opportunity to meet an actor portraying Orra White Hitchcock, the wife of former Amherst College president and state geologist Edward Hitchcock, and one of the first female scientific illustrators.

Admission is $7 for adults and $1 for youth under 12. Proceeds from the fair benefit PVMA. Fairgoers will also be admitted to the organization’s Memorial Hall Museum as part of their ticket price, where they can view the museum’s exhibits.

Free parking and shuttle buses will be provided at Channing Bete Co. and Yankee Candle on Routes 5 and 10.

You can reach Tom Relihan at: trelihan@recorder.com, or call 413-772-0261 ext. 264. On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom