Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Taste of Fair Appalachia in Ripley, West Virginia

To say that Ripley, West Virginia is off the beaten path is to assume that path is the road not taken by Robert Frost. With a grand total of five traffic lights and a population of just over 3,200, New York City it ain’t. But don’t let the small size of this place fool you – when it’s time to celebrate the birth of our country, Ripley can “put on the dog” like nobody’s business.

The Fourth of July festivities in Ripley are legendary locally and surprisingly well known nationally. The Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair that takes place the first week in July just outside of the city limits at Cedar Lakes Conference center attracts not only vendors but visitors from all over the United States. Featuring handmade items proudly displaying Appalachian craftsmanship, tasty Appalachian food, lively music and tons of other exhibits and activities, the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair allows you to take a welcome step back in time and experience a taste of life in Appalachia, with all its rich flavors and history. Speaking of flavors, I highly recommend you forget the diet while you’re here and enjoy some of the finest food that Appalachia has ever produced. From homemade jams and jellies to buckwheat cakes and fried green tomatoes, you can literally take a bite out of Appalachian history. And what a bite it is! Growing up in Ripley, and being a lifelong devotee of the Arts and Crafts fair, I can tell you from experience that your taste buds will love you forever, and your hips will forgive you.


As a local, the thing that has always most impressed me about the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair is the feeling it evokes. While the crowds are large, there is a prevailing thread of fellowship that seems to envelope you and carries you back to a time when things were simpler, and people weren’t so harried. I suppose it’s hard to be grumpy when you’re surrounded by friendly people with your belly full of fine food and the sound of rich Appalachian music in your ears.


The Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair, which started in 1963, is ranked in the top five Arts and Crafts Fairs in America, and is also listed in Travel Guide as one of the Mid Atlantic Region’s Best Festivals. It has been written about in the Miami Herald, and is probably the best kept secret you and your family will love. And, according to Bob Wines, who is both Vice President of Marketing and Publicity for the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair as well as a member of the Division of National Resources, this year’s celebration will be even bigger and better than before, with more vendors and artisans than ever.


With handicapped access and free golf cart transport around the grounds for those that are mobility impaired, the people at the fair have made it easy for the entire family to come out and have a good time. And pets are welcome on the grounds as well, for those of you that want to include Fido in your travels.


The 2009 Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair begins on Thursday, July 2nd, and runs through Sunday, July 4th. It opens at 9:00am and closes at 7:00pm daily. For lodging, maps, photos or more detailed information please visit the website at http://www.msacf.com/fairinfo.html.


In addition to the fair, Ripley also boasts a carnival downtown during the week-long Fourth of July Celebrations. With rides and games and live performances from local as well as nationally acclaimed artists, it’s just another part of this wonderful week in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia that you won’t want to miss.


So come one, come all! Stay a while, “set a spell” and make a few friends. After all, you’ll be seeing them again when you come back next year.


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