TEXAS STATE ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR
TEXAS STATE ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR. The Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair, an outdoor festival held in Kerrville each May, features a wide range of crafts by Texas residents, as well as related educational and recreational activities. In 1970 the Texas Tourist Development Agency, inspired by successful arts fairs in West Virginia and Canada, determined to establish a similar event in Texas. From a number of competing cities, Kerrville was selected as the host site, and the first arts and crafts fair was held there over Memorial Day weekend in 1972. A folk-music festival organized to complement the first arts and crafts fair engendered the Kerrville Folk Festival, which thereafter operated independently. Phil Davis, community consultant for the Texas Tourist Development Agency, served as temporary director for the first three fairs. The Texas Arts and Crafts Educational Foundation, Incorporated, a nonprofit organization with a sixteen-member board, was established in 1974 to sponsor the fair. Mrs. Audie Hamilton was named executive director of the foundation, and from 1975 through at least 1991 organized the fair and related educational activities. Each year some 250 artists and artisans display their wares at the fair. Participants must be residents of Texas and are selected by a jury. The arts and crafts displayed at the fair range stylistically from pioneer to contemporary, with an emphasis placed on traditional craft items such as quilts, lace, pottery, tapestry, glass, and handmade and hand-painted wooden furniture. At the fair, craftspeople frequently show how their items are made, and in a large demonstration area one can see blacksmithing, candle-dipping, and the making of saddles, lye soap, and textiles, as well as other crafts practiced during Texas frontier days. Each year two traditional crafts are the focus of extensive demonstrations organized by the Texas Arts and Crafts Educational Foundation. There is a large children's area with hands-on crafts instruction, traditional children's games, a petting zoo, storytelling, and other activities. Additional entertainment, primarily music, occurs on two stages. Each year the fair is organized around a unifying theme; in 1991 it was Legend, Lore, and Magic. The Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair is held outdoors, on sixteen acres of the Schreiner College campus. Large tents, oak trees, and a meandering creek offer respite from the sun, and cool drinks and regional foods are served. The event is usually slated for Memorial Day weekend, and occasionally runs two weekends. Attendance averages between 35,000 and 37,000. Income from a single attendance fee charged at the gate supports a year-round staff of an executive director and a secretary. Additional staff are hired each May to prepare for the fair.
Texas Parade, May 1974. Les Thomas, "Weekends for Crafts in the Texas Hills," Southern Living, May 1989. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Arts and Crafts, Kerrville Folk Festival).