Something for everyone at Calico Fort

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2000

This aging couple appears to be enjoying the shade at Calico Fort's 29th annual event last weekend, but they are actually just a sample of the arts and crafts on display by the hundreds of vendors that attend the event each year. Organizers estimate more than 18,000 people visited Fort Deposit this weekend for the annual tradition.

Photo by Angie Long

Beneath the tall, shady southern pines of Lowndes County, just outside the little town of Fort Deposit throngs of people, about 18,000 all together, gathered this past weekend for an event that has become a Southern traditionthe 29th Annual Calico Fort Arts and Crafts Fair.

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Exhibitors came from all across the southeast and as far away as New York and Wisconsin to display an amazing array of hand-made, high-quality artwork and crafts.

It was a great opportunity to browse and buy; to enjoy a variety of music and dance performances in the amphitheater and to treat your taste buds to everything from barbecue and polish dogs to freshly made funnel cakes and homemade ice cream.

Many folks also enjoyed chance meetings with old friends; young families enjoyed time together in the near-perfect springtime weather.

It was wholesome weekend of fun, food and friendly smiles all around.

This two-day event advertised itself as "bigger and better than ever", and from the happy expressions on the faces of both visitors and exhibitors, it certainly seemed to live up to that promise.

For those looking for unique gift ideas, there was a large variety of items in a wide range of prices, truly something for everyone.

For $2, you could buy a charming hand-painted wooden magnet, personalized while you waited; for $200 you could purchase an original framed oil painting, or several pieces of expertly done wheel-thrown pottery, in one of five design lines. For $10 could buy a lovely angel pin, or one of a large variety of cookbooks.

The proceeds from either purchase went to charity.

And that's just a sampling of the variety and value available, just waiting for visitors who "shopped the Fort."

For those with a fondness for nostalgic attire, there were lovely lace blouses and long chemise dresses; jewelry from Debra Farley's "The Charming Cherub" would've made a perfect complement to such styles.

Her one-of-a-kind jewelry, created from broken bits of hand-painted china, antique buttons and other vintage bits and pieces, beautifully shows how "trash" can be restored to treasure with a little imagination and a touch of whimsy.

Her booth itself was unique with items like old-fashioned shutters and an antique bedstead used as display "racks" for her unique brooches, earrings, pendants, and bracelets.

Coin, knife and Indian art collectors were not to be disappointed either and many a dad or grandpa would've enjoyed the nostalgic paintings of old country stores or the beautiful outdoor art with its detailed scenes of wildlife and woodlands.

And the children certainly weren't left out of the fun.

Not only were there plenty of stuffed animals, toys, and dolls on hand, but also the fun of having your face painted, a "cool" temporary tattoo applied, or your getting your hair streaked in a rainbow of metallic colors.

The kids also had their own special child-sized train, ponies to ride, and a delightful assortment of animals to meet, feed, and give an affectionate hug to in the petting zoo.They also had the chance to do some panning for real gold. Clowns with trademark Calico balloons wandered about, and hermit crabs were available to take home as a real live souvenir of the day.

Everyone had the opportunity to enjoy the continuous entertainment at the Fort's natural amphitheater, everything from the fleet-footed Permission Creek Cloggers and the toe-tapping bluegrass / gospel mix of "Southern Comfort", to the passionate and powerful voice of Christian vocalist Haley Spates and the good-time rock and roll of three talented teens known as "The Mockingbirds". Students from the Fort Deposit School of Dance also performed some great routines, along with some of our local "International Miss" girls.

Yes, it was a weekend of great sights, sounds, smells, tastes; two days filled with color, excitement, beauty, creativity and good old-fashioned fun. The words of Andrew McCall of Letohatchee probably reflect the spirit and attitude of the weekend as well as any.

If you missed the Fort experience this year, don't worry.

They're already planning the 30th event for 2001.

We're sure it'll be advertised as bigger and better than ever once again; and once again, it's likely the folks of Fort Deposit will deliver.