Traditional trades focus of Mountain Craft Days Festival in Somerset County – Tribune-Review

The Somerset County Historical Society will celebrate Somerset County as it was in the 18th century during the 46th annual Mountain Craft Days Festival, to be held 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sept. 13 at the Somerset Historical Society Grounds, Route 601, just north of Somerset.

The festival will feature demonstrations of many traditional trades, including rail-splitting, weaving and stonemasonry. Admission is $7.

Food, including chicken pot pie, apple dumplings, and barbecue chicken or beef, will be available for purchase.

Several new events, including chair caning and a Rat Catcher — a traveling entertainer on his way to the city to catch rats — will be featured. D’verse, a trio of musicians from the Somerset County area, also will be there.

A special feature of the festival is an exhibit on Somerset County barns, at the Somerset Historical Society visitors center.

Barns played an important role in the county’s socioeconomic life, said curator Jake Miller.

“It was important to have a place to store grain and feed for the livestock,� Miller said. “It also was an important gathering place for the community. When there was a barnraising — when the community comes together to build a barn — there could be 200 people or more.�

Miller also pointed out different methods of construction of barns.

“Many barns were built in a ‘crib’ style,â€� he said. “The lower section — where the animals stayed — was chinked. The upper section — where the grain was stored — was ventilated to keep the grain and straw from becoming musty.â€�

Miller said that the larger, timber based barns that are more familiar now actually originated in the eastern part of the state.

“This type of barn was common amongst the German immigrants who came to this country,� he said. “As these immigrants migrated west, they brought with them this style of barn.�

Miller said that people often hired a professional barn-builder to assist with laying out the timbers. The barns were roofed and sided at leisure.

The exhibit lasts until Oct. 31.

“Somerset County is a treasure trove for traditional artists,� said Mark Ware, executive director of the Historical Society. “We have a large, highly skilled work force that have generations with ties to early farming, craft practices, and and interest in preserving the early ways of doing things. We have a number of persons who have learned traditional crafts with the sole intent of keeping the practices alive for future generations.

“It is this determination and interest that makes Mountain Craft Days unique among craft festivals.�

For more information about Mountain Craft Days, call the historical society at 814-445-6077.

Barbara Starn is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.