Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival at Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Gigantic fall art, bluegrass fest is wild, wonderful and not far from DC. Photo: flickr

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va., September 26, 2013 – Since what seems like time immemorial, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Mountain has held its twice-a-year Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival in a large, gently rolling field not far outside the historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

There are actually two Festivals each year. The three-day events are traditionally scheduled for the final weekends of June and September. But the September stanza has always been our personal favorite. We plan to attend the Festival this weekend, one of the best times of the year to visit West Virginia.

After all, this is when the wild and wonderful tang of fall is in the air, and the trees and forests clinging to the mountainsides are beginning to take on their colorful autumn hues. Better yet is the smoky, cinnamony scent of slowly cooking, fresh apple butter bubbling up from copper vats to greet you as you enter the Festival grounds.

Patent Pending, one of the bluegrass bands performing this weekend at the Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival. (Credit: Patent Pending)

As an extra-added bonus, commencing with the Festival’s opening tomorrow, the weatherman is promising a perfect West Virginia mountain weekend with a near zero chance of rain and daily highs in roughly the mid-70s. Who could ask for more?

But more is what you get. You’ll find roughly a dozen huge tents stretching out before you, housing a juried show featuring upwards of 200 artisans from across the country displaying and peddling their wares in a first-rate show that’s been nationally acclaimed for its variety and quality.

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Exhibits run the gamut from hand-carved fireplace mantels to art glass, to hand-crafted furniture and traditional folk and bluegrass instruments, to a riot of gourmet food items.

Additional tents, trailers, and kiosks dot the periphery of the grounds, offering West Virginia wine tastings (most vintages still have a way to go) as well as typical fair food that tends to be atypically good, ranging from those always ubiquitous funnel cakes to incredibly tasty Italian and Polish subs.

And the hits just keep on coming. One of the best features of each Festival is the first class roster of top-notch bluegrass groups offering live music from open to close on Saturday and Sunday, performing on a small stage just as you enter the grounds. You can grab some of that fair fare and plunk yourself down on one of the many available hay bales that serve as orchestra seats. Or, you can just listen casually as you stroll through the tents, as the event’s excellent sound and PA system carries the music nearly everywhere you happen to stroll.

This year’s featured artists are The Hillbilly Gypsies, Patent Pending, The Stevens Family Bluegrass Band and JR Sisk & Ramblers Choice, some of whom Washington area bluegrass fans may already have heard at The Birchmere, Northern Virginia’s venerable live bluegrass and acoustic mecca.

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Here’s a video clip from the Stevens Familly to get you in the mood:

Finally, if you have a bit of extra time, touring the historic lower town of Harpers Ferry is a picturesque autumn treat as well as a step back in U.S. history. For Harpers Ferry is, after all, the historic former home of the massive Federal Armory that was the target of John Brown’s famous raid.

The Armory is long gone now, with some of the land upon which is stood now being occupied by a MARC/Amtrak rail station. But the small building from which Brown and a few of his followers staged their last stand is still there.

And the town itself is spectacularly scenic as it rolls up from its base at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers to its craggy cliffs from which you can gaze across the rivers to catch a sweeping, panoramic view of three states: West Virginia (part of Virginia in John Brown’s time), Virginia, and Maryland.

If you haven’t visited either this delightful Festival or this beautiful historic sight, this weekend might just be your best chance. Maybe we’ll see you there this weekend.

Let’s wrap things up today with a longish video clip of the Hillbilly Gypsies in a performance last year in Lucketts, Virginia. While that clip is playing, you can check out the Festival particulars below.

GETTING THERE: The Festival is a generally pleasant drive of 90 minutes—more or less—from the DC area. You can find a map and access personalized driving instructions at this festival link. For general information, click here. Hint: traffic in this neck of the woods generally isn’t worth discussing, particularly for those familiar with Beltway commutes. However, the narrow roads to and from the fairgrounds can get a bit backed up at US 340 near closing time each day, so time your exit accordingly.

DATES AND TIMES: This year, festivities begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, September 27 and conclude Sunday, September 29, at 5 p.m. Daily hours are from 9-5.

ENTRANCE FEE: Adults, $7.00;
Children, 6-17, $4.00;
Children under 6 are free. For a printable dollar-off coupon (you’ll need one per paying customer), click here. Parking is free.



11:00 am - 11:45 a.m.: THE HILLBILLY GYPSIES

12:00 pm - 12:45 p.m.: PATENT PENDING


2:00 pm - 02:45 p.m.: THE HILLBILLY GYPSIES

3:00 pm - 03:45 p.m.: PATENT PENDING



11:00 am - 11:45 a.m.: PATENT PENDING


1:00 pm - 01:45 p.m.: JR SISK & RAMBLERS CHOICE

2:00 pm - 02:45 p.m.: PATENT PENDING


4:00 pm - 04:45 p.m.:  JR SISK & RAMBLERS CHOICE

Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17

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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, movies and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was formerly the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2009) before moving online with Communities in 2010.  



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