Local ties are the backbone of Forkland Festival

October 14, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

FORKLAND - In a picturesque valley flanked by knobs bearing the colors of early fall, the community of Forkland's population swelled to between 7,000 and 8,000 people this weekend, even though locals will proudly tell you it's not a town and never was.

"They drive hundreds of miles to do nothin'," said Steve Shepperson, co-chairman of the Forkland Heritage Festival and Revue, speaking of the people who travel miles of hilly, curvy backroads for the crafts, food, and fellowship.

Pam Roller, greeting people outside the Forkland Community Center, said the festival is set apart from others in that all the crafts are made by local people, those who either live in Forkland or still have a strong connection to it.

"From crafts to fine arts," she said.

"They don't let it turn into a flea market," echoed Shepperson, standing in a booth surrounded by baskets of produce. "All grown in the knobs," he said of the baskets of pumpkins, green beans, corn, walnuts, herbs and turnips.


Proceeds from the festival are used to pay for the community center, the former school bought from the Boyle County Board of Education in 1971.

"It raises money to keep the building in intact," said Shepperson.

The festival is reminiscent of an earlier, simpler time, "before electricity," said Cambron Williams, sitting in front of his handmade lathe. Williams also makes handmade wooden toys, such as a rifle pop gun in which several youngsters found enjoyment.

"The '40s and '30s and '20s, said Shepperson. "Pre-TV. Horse and buggy days. You'll never be able to go back there again. We're so bound by the price of petroleum now."

Jim Overstreet, dressed in 19th century clothing, sat under a tent making chairs by hand. "It's not commercialized," he said of the festival. "It just promotes bringing folks together you've not seen in years."

Overstreet said another thing that sets the community and festival apart is the strength of its residents.

"This community has pulled itself up by its bootstraps all along," he said.

"These bonds never go away," said Shepperson.

Shirley Sheperson, one of the founding members of the festival, said the festival brings people back to trace their family histories.

"Michigan, Louisiana, Indiana ... California," she said. "Their ancestors lived here."|None***

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