Clarion, Pa.- Thousands of Clarion residents and crafters from local and distant towns crowded into streets of uptown Clarion to participate in the 61st annual Autumn Leaf Festival Farmer’s and Crafter’s Day.
Many people fought for elbow room through the crowded six-block Crafter’s Day event. On Friday of the ALF Festival, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., jewelers, wood workers, interior designers and candy-makers alike proudly display and sell their handmade products to the Clarion Community. From jewelry made out of spoons to hand-painted and carved welcoming signs, the Autumn Leaf Crafter’s Day was a day that had many on the streets looking for hidden, hand-made treasures.
Over 30 white tents and 300 crafters filled Main Street, each tent displaying a unique product of its own. Drawing almost 200,000 people to its stands each festival, there wasn’t a chance that a local wanderer would not find an item of interest.
One of the most popular vendors were those who sold handmade primitives, like Tracy Milliron. Traveling from Oakridge, Pa. to sell her crafts, Milliron is a self-employed decorative designer, specializing in handmade primitives. Her business, Down Right Primitives, showcases items including repurposing old doors and windows to wooden stools to hold dog dishes.
“I self-taught myself since I was 19 years old how to work with wood and different power tools,” commented Milliron, who said she has taken what was once a part time hobby and turned it into a full-time business. “I love what I do. It started out as a way to make some extra cash but now it is just something that I do full time,” said Milliron.
Milliron makes the trip from Oakridge every year for the ALF festival to display her prized possessions during Crafter’s Day. She finds that many customers are thrilled with her work. “I do many shows around Pennsylvania, but I have always enjoyed coming here to ALF.”
Adena Kephart, founder of Adena’s Beaded Creations, was also a proud vendor at the overly crowded Crafter’s Day. “It is my first year here,” saidKephart, who is originally from Osceola Mills, Pa. “For six years I worked out of my home with bead weaving jewelry. It all started out as a way to spend time with my step-daughter but it grew into much more of a hobby.”
Within her booth area, Kephart displayed many delicate and detailed pieces that she had made, from embroidered head bands to long, intricate charm necklaces. “The average piece,” she continued, “usually takes me about four hours to make. I often do customization in color and length for proms or weddings.”
She concluded, “I even did research on how my display area should look like, in order to maximize customer interest. I find jewelry making as a way of self-expression, and I don’t really look to make a profit at shows. I just wish for people to see and appreciate my work. I have heard many people already tell me that my pieces are very affordable.”
Four blocks down, a couple sells a more familiar item to its customers, an item that is currently a hot topic amongst teens and young adults: survival bracelets. Paracord survival bracelets by Eileen Hentz was a booth that almost always had two or three teens standing around it, staring in awe at the hundreds of different colors and sizes survival bracelets.
“I have been retired for six years,” said Hentz, “and for five of those years I have done nothing but tied paracord bracelets. I always see how people want to buy a bracelet, but they don’t have the correct size. I want to make all of my customers happy, so I decided to make bracelets at every quarter of an inch length from size five to 10 and every quarter size in between.”
Hentz focuses on making the cobra-style bracelets as well as the fish tail design and miniature dragonfly keychains. “I often stay up until about 2 a.m. making bracelets. I have people call my house all the time asking for orders or different colors.”
She added, “When I go to shows I bring all of my material with me so that if someone wants a specific color and I don’t have it in their size, I will make it on the spot.” Hentz said it takes her about 15 minutes to tie a tight, firm bracelet. She even once custom-made a paracord belt for a customer who worked at the Clarion Airport.
She added, “I did have a gentlemen who worked at the airport ask for a belt made with a plastic buckle because the airport saw belts with metal buckles as hazards. He wanted to feel somewhat safer on the plane so he asked for a belt.”
Hentz owns over 125 different colors of 550 pound strength paracord. “I do this for fun,” she said. “I love making bracelets for people and seeing how happy they are that they have certain colors and that the bracelet fits perfectly.”
“It is always fun and challenging when people ask for certain designs or colors. Hey, I am retired and I see this as an enjoyable and relaxing hobby.”
It was not only craft vendors that occupied Main Street. Food vendors and candy makers arranged booths throughout the six block radius as well. One booth that stood out the most was Hockman Candy, featuring Erin’s Fabulous Fudge.
Normally, fudge comes in flavors such as chocolate or caramel or the occasional wild flavor of cheesecake. However, Erin’s Fabulous Fudge tipped the flavor scale, offering flavors such as cookie dough, blueberry cheesecake, Nutella, pumpkin pie, M&M, popcorn and many more.
Erin McMahon, owner of Erin’s Fabulous Fudge in downtown DuBois, has been working with her parents in Hockman Candy for over 18 years.
“I started out making fudge as a part time job, but then I loved it so much I made it a full time occupation. I have developed over 20 flavors of fudge and am always looking for more ideas,” stated McMahon.
It is McMahon’s second year at ALF, and she has already seen a large amount of interest in her stand.
She added, “I usually make 200 pounds of fudge a week and am always attending shows on the weekend. I just love making fudge and selling it to others. Personally, my favorite flavor is either pumpkin or raspberry truffle, but I am always searching for more flavors.”
McMahon said, “ALF is a great place for people to look for new things and try new things and that was one aspect that I always liked about coming here.”