CLEARFIELD – The High Country Arts and Crafts Fair celebrated 18 years of festivity, food and a touch of Pennsylvania history Sunday, drawing thousands to S.B. Elliott State Park.
“We parked and emptied the lots three times. There have been a lot of people here today,” noted fire police officer Terry Morgan of Clearfield at 3 p.m. with two hours of the event still to go.
A total of 160 artisans and crafts people offered everything from furniture and home decor to candles and clothing. Exhibits, including wool spinning, and musical entertainment rounded out the day.
High Country was inaugurated in 1988 by Carol Berry of Clearfield and Howard Wise, volunteer at the park’s Pennsylvania Center, in tandem with the BPO Elks of Clearfield.
“We had about 35 vendors and a good time,” Wise recalled.
Over the years exhibits were added, the music card expanded, and the chicken barbecue offered by the Elks Past Exalted Ruler Association grew to serve hundreds of dinners.
“We just kept growing. One of the things Carol and I figured from the beginning was that it was either going to get better or die. I’m glad to say it’s just gotten better,” Wise said.
The event’s home was once on a closure list of state facilities, in the 1960s when Interstate 80 was under construction but Wise said a dedicated group of volunteers, including the Clearfield Chamber of Commerce, fought to keep S.B. Elliott open.
“The buildings were going to be razed, the park closed but slowly, we kept it going and kept it open. Of course, now it’s a treasure from the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) days but, back then, its historic significance was appreciated like it is now,” he said.
Wise is on duty at the Pennsylvania Center each weekend through October, unless there’s Penn State home football game. The log building is chock full of art and artifacts, educational material and taxidermied animals, all hallmarks of the Clearfield area and the Keystone State.
Many visitors to the arts and crafts fair also stopped in the center and peppered Wise with questions as varied as where is the ring rock in Karthaus to the location of the former Crystal Springs Hotel to the temperament of rattlesnakes.
“I don’t recall the center ever being as busy as it is today,” he added.