Calico Fort celebrates 50 years

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The 50th annual Calico Fort Arts and Crafts Fair was held April 9 and 10 in historic Fort Deposit. The 6 acre event, sponsored by the Fort Deposit Arts Council, was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID. However, this year’s golden anniversary festival was a success, ending with great weather and between 6,000 and 8,000 visitors according to Frieda Cross, Calico Fort chairman. 

Cross, who has been involved since the inception of Calico Fort,said there were about 100 booths this year and she was delighted to get back into the swing of things. 

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“We have a lot of fun and It was fantastic to gather together after the last two years being canceled due to COVID.  In 50 years we have really learned what works and what doesn’t and we know that property tax, insurance, etc still must be paid. We will be meeting soon to crunch the numbers and make decisions on where funds raised will go this year. I would like to thank everyone who came out to join in on the fun. We also appreciate the entertainers and musicians that performed at no charge in an effort to help us get back up on our feet after COVID,”Cross said. 

There was a wide variety of handmade items for sale including stained glass, honey and honey products, metal art, woodwork, knives, candles, clothing, pet items, rugs, home decor, bird houses, personalized signs, leather work, iron work, macrame plant hangers, wooden bowls, jewelry, personalized signs, and much more.

Calico Fort brings back good memories

The fair was a commemorative occasion for Greenville native Kay Dutton and her daughter, Heather Dutton, of Montgomery. Kay’s birthday was April 6 and the trip to Calico Fort was how the mother daughter pair chose to celebrate. 

“It has been a long time since I have been here, but growing up, I would come with my mom, my late grandmother and my two sisters. We all looked forward to it and I thought coming to the fair would be a great thing to do for Mom’s birthday. This is our first trip to Calico Fort without my grandmother and it has brought back some great memories,” Heather said. 

Kay said she had enjoyed the day and that she loved the atmosphere.

“I love all the room out here. There is so much wide-open space and you are never shoulder to shoulder with people like you are at similar events,” Kay said. 

Letohatchee exhibitor brings hand made wooden bowls

Tommy Gamble, of Davenport, is the owner of Wood Creations and had many of his wooden bowls for sale at Calico Fort. Gamble began making bowls as a way to relieve stress. 

“I needed something to just take my mind off of the everyday stresses of work and I had a friend that had a lathe. He showed me how to turn wood and helped get me started making bowls and boy did it relieve stress. I get in there working on a bowl, and I just forget all the other stuff. I think everyone needs something like that,” Gamble said. 

Each bowl can take anywhere from 6 months to over a year to complete. The wood has to be carved when it is green. The bowls must be one inch thick for every 12 inches of diameter and must be roughed and dried. Depending on the type of wood, a bowl may take as long as a year to completely dry. Then the bowl has to be put back on the lathe for finishing touches. All of Gamble’s bowls have had 5 coats of a food grade, salad bowl finish applied when complete and do not need re oiling.  They can be washed with hot water and soap, dried and put back on the shelf. 

Exhibitor from Ecletic, AL brings bees and bee products

Allyson Andrews, owner of Wildly Blessed and a third-generation beekeeper, brought her beekeeping wares from Ecletic to sell and also her traveling live honeybee display. She had for sale local honey (including her pepper infused, and creamed orange blossom versions) along with other products made from honey harvested on her beekeeping operations located in Alabama and Florida. Anrews had lip balm, hand cream, hand lotion, soap, muscle rub, anti-itch bug bite salve, and bug repellent. Along with the items Andrews took to the fair, she brought along her free spirit, Native American roots, her affection for nature and love for the Lord. 

“I am wildly blessed to just be on this earth, and to be continually learning about how to get back to my Native American roots- foraging for food and using medicine that Mother Earth shares with us. Out of desire to have more natural products for my family, I began conjuring up all natural products on my own. I have found that there are a lot of folks that love all natural things and I am honored to be able to give people access to them through my website and through events like Calico Fort.  My life philosophy is “taste and see that the Lord is good because he is good to us and he has blessed us tremendously. -Psalm 34:8,” Andrews said. 

Children and adults enjoyed the free petting zoo with rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, goats, cows, a tortoise and an Alpaca. Bungee jumping, inflatables, and free children’s crafts were also available for youngsters. Free pet sitting was offered by the Butler County Humane Society immediately outside of the gate and food vendors abounded. 

Vocalists performing throughout the weekend were Max Conway & The Girl Next Door, Richard Hanley & Guy Johnson, The Kirby’s, Steve Pendley, Adrian Johnson and the Fort Dale Ensemble. On Sunday a church service was held in the amphitheater. 

Awards for exhibitionists given

The Fort Deposit Arts Council has a tradition of presenting special exhibitionists with an award each year. This year, the following artists were selected. Art-first place: Jessica Carr (Wood Wall Art), second place:Andi Shepard (Oil Paintings),  third place:Dennise Smith (Glass and Resin art). Crafts- first place:Willie Ivey (Wood Crafts), second place:Sandra Miles (Chenille Items), third place:JS Lightsey (Music Boxes),Best of Show: Jeffery Smith (Wood)  

Money raised

Proceeds from the fair go to various projects undertaken by the Arts Council. Past projects have included purchases of fire trucks, police cars, a new ambulance, a Jaws of Life unit and support equipment for the Fort Deposit Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, and a new van to be used for transportation at the senior citizen center. Part of the profits will also be set aside for college scholarships and this year the Fort Deposit Arts Council sponsored a visit from Hope Afield families and friends to attend.

Food vendors at Calico Fort included the fire department, elementary school, middle school, and other civic organizations. These groups sold pulled barbeque, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers and fries, nachos, funnel cakes, lemonade, drinks, popcorn, and sweets. Money raised from these sales went directly to the civic groups.

Brief history of Calico Fort and Fort Deposit

With the first fair being held April 8 and 9, 1972, Calico Fort is one of the oldest, largest and most popular arts and crafts fairs in the South. Calico Fort began as a dream by a group of local citizens who desired to promote the small town, to create an interest which would draw visitors, and develop an outstanding Arts and Crafts festival. It takes place the second weekend of every April in Fort Deposit, AL, established in December 1813 by General Ferdinand J. Claiborne at the direction of General Andrew Jackson. Built as a supply depot during the Creek Indian War, it served as a base of operations for General Claiborne’s troops during the Battle of the Holy Ground, and the Redstick Creek stronghold. After the Creek Indian defeat at Holy Ground on Dec 23, 1813, the fort continued to be used until the end of hostilities and thereafter, as a settler refuge from sporadic Indian attacks.

For more information visit www.calicofort.com or call (334) 227-8589.