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Locals flock to Calico Fort

If you weren't at the 33rd Annual Calico Fort held in Fort Deposit last weekend, you were among a select few that missed a beautiful spring event with beautiful weather.

Nearly 200 vendors of all types n arts, crafts, displays, musicians and food concessions were on the grounds of Calico Spirit Drive in Fort Deposit, to take part in the south's largest outdoor arts and crafts festival.

More than 13,000 happy people walked the grounds during the two-day event, and the weather was perfect.

"We have had so many Calico events in the past that have been rained on," said Freida Cross, a director on the Fort Deposit Arts Council, sponsoring group of the event. "This weekend has been just perfect for the event."

People of all ages found something that tickled their fancy during the event, including live entertainment, "old-timey" contraptions, including "hit and miss" engine driven mills, ice cream freezers, and handmade arts and crafts ranging from furniture made from grapevines, wisteria and willow, to unique one-of-a-kind jewelry creations made from precious stones and silver, to mailboxes, signs, and furniture made on-site by craftsmen.

Brandy Burton and his wife Dorothy drove from Cantonment, Fla., to operate their unique gristmill, making three distinct products out of dried corn.

"We are making corn meal, grits and chicken feed all from the same whole corn," said Burton. "This is pretty much just a standard grist mill, but it is unique in that it is operated by a 1926 Hercules "Hit and Miss" engine. It has three hopper chutes n the first makes a very fine corn meal, the second takes what is left and makes grits, and the final chute has what is left, and makes a very good chicken feed."

Three products made the old-fashioned way, with no waste.

The Burtons were selling 1.5-lb. bags of corn meal for $3.

Etta McCall, a Calhoun resident, was on-hand selling unique furniture made from vines.

"This loveseat I am sitting on is actually made from willow limbs," she said. "It is just as sturdy as any furniture you could buy in the stores, but it just shows you that all products of the earth can be put to good use. We also make furniture from grapevines and wisteria."

And of course the area's schools were represented with concession booths.

Deborah Scott, from the Fort Deposit Elementary School, was present making cotton candy n a favorite among children from eight to eighty.

Ronnie Paulk, a local resident and insurance agent, could be found hawking delicious Polish sausage and hot dogs for the Fort Deposit School Bus Fund, at a display called the "Dawg House."

And Regina Gibson was in the window of "The Pizza Parlor," selling pizza by the slice or pie and drinks for the Greenville High School Alumni Association.

Those with a "sweet tooth" were able to enjoy handmade fudge, courtesy of Josh Brinkman, who came up from Mobile for the event.

Vera Smith, who lives in Frisco City, brought with her yet another unique ware.

"Our business is Hug-a-Bear Creations,' a very popular item with the younger children," she said. "We allow children to stuff their own teddy bears and other stuffed animals of their own design. They really love it, and we have seen many smiling faces here this weekend."

An old saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," came true with the Cowboys' Retread Thoroughbreds, unique tire swings made into bulls, horses, dragons, unicorns and many other designs, a mom-and-pop operation from Century, Fla.

And of course, there was face painting.

One group of seven middle school girls from Pizitz Middle School in Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham, enjoyed getting their faces painted.

The girls and their mothers made a full day of the event on Saturday, at the invitation of Ann Cates, who lives in Vestavia Hills but recently restored a farmhouse with her husband in Greenville.

"We knew about the event ahead of time, because my husband and his family are from Greenville," said Cates. "I invited my friends down to the farmhouse, and we all felt that the Calico Fort event would be an extra special event to visit during the weekend."

Although there may have been a vendor from further, most agreed that the "Andean Nations" group probably had traveled the furthest to take part in Calico Fort n all the way from Albuquerque, N.M.

Many people stopped to listen to Andrew Taher play his flute, along with accompaniment on the Spanish guitar by Fernando Hernandez. CDs and cassette tapes were available for all that wished to take home the beautiful music of the Andes Mountains.

Emergystat, a private emergency medical service agency that subsidizes service to Lowndes County, provided a first-aid station. Paramedic and Operations Manager Chris Brown headed the ambulance group.

The Fort Deposit Police Department, Lowndes County Sheriff's Department and the Butler County Sheriff's Posse provided security and parking.

When the weekend-long event was over, plans were already in place for the 34th Annual Calico Fort Arts and Crafts Fair, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, 2005.