White Oak Fair keeps traditions alive

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By DAN WHITTLE, Courier Correspondent

WOODBURY – Say “white oak” and “crafts” and artisans from as far away as Pennsylvania will respond: “Cannon County.”

A record number of artisans from multiple states have registered for Cannon County’s increasingly popular White Oak Fair slated for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13-14, at the award-winning Arts Center of Cannon County.

“We’re celebrating the 25th year of the Fair,” noted Neal Appelbaum, executive director of the Arts Center. “Judging from pre-show interest, we may exceed 5,000 visitors this year.”

Pennsylvania-based folk-art painter Barbara Strawser, who has been showing her work at the White Oak Fair more than two decades, promised to display a painted scene she saw years ago on the road leading north out of Woodbury toward Auburntown.

“My grandson was battling cancer at the time, so I often put angels in my work,” the artist sketched with obvious heart-felt words. “During that era in Tennessee, which I love for the beautiful nature scenes, I saw goats standing on a hill, being guarded by these beautiful big Pyrenees dogs. In the trees above the goats and white dogs, is where I painted the angels.”

Notable Readyville blacksmith Joe Brown has been demonstrating his craft 19 consecutive years at the Fair.
“Judging from last year’s attendance of 4,000-plus, attendance could top 5,000 visitors this year, as our White Oak Fair gains in prestige each year,” Brown predicted as he heated and hammered out a bowl.

“I do demonstrations on site, working mostly with steel, forming and shaping functional art,” crafted Brown. “I don’t do farrier blacksmithing that along with horses and mules, helped make America what it is today. But I do enjoy performing live demonstrations of my folk art to keep the blacksmithing tradition alive.”

Murfreesboro’s Kim Harris Mullins is scheduled to show her hand-crafted “Gemama” jewelry, featuring a lot of gems.
“I’m a child of the 1980s, so gems are a theme I love as I work with sterling silver, wire works and leather-weaving,” creative artisan Mullins noted. “I love the White Oak Fair, because it draws so many other vendors and their creations.”

“Last year, we had 70 vendors,” accounted Arts Center Fair Manager Mary Wilson. “We’re already registered over 80 vendors, and the phone and emails keep coming in.”

Veteran Warren County white oak basket maker Sue Williams learned her craft from legendary Cannon County artisans Gertie Youngblood and Mary Jane Prater.

“I started making baskets 30 years ago,” Williams weaved back in time. “Typically, I can weave and work a basket in four days to a week. I’m always anxious to show my baskets at the White Oak Fair, because it draws so much interest. My baskets can range from $75 to $400 … some of my white oak basket sets go for a $1,000 or more.”

Readyville’s Erin Elizabeth Brown, age 20, has been showing her fine, delicate artistic jewelry at the Woodbury event since age 12.

“My gifted daughter is also into weaving and spinning,” noted proud father Joe Brown.

In addition to the crafts people, there will be culinary artists there such as from Julia’s Bakery out of Murfreesboro, Wilson confirmed.

“We’ll also have barbecue booths, plus our on-site Blue Porch Restaurant creative culinary artists will be serving meals inside,” Wilson added.

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2014, art, White Oak Arts Festival
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