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Craft folk unite at Unicois Fireside
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36th annual Fireside Art & Craft Show

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Unicoi State Park & Lodge, 1780 Ga. 356, Helen

How much: $5 parking; free admission

More info: 706-878-2201



The Fireside Art & Craft Show began 36 years ago when organizers at Unicoi State Park and Lodge wanted to showcase Appalachian culture and draw visitors to the Helen park during a slow time of year.

The first show had about eight booths, according to park resource manager Ellen Graham.

"To go from that to using all of the indoor space in the building — and we've had as many in some years as 72 booths — it's definitely grown and changed through the years," Graham said.

This year, Graham said 67 artists and craftsmen will show their hand-crafted works, including 12 new exhibitors.

Well-known Clarkesville watercolorist John Kollock, whose paintings chronicle historic North Georgia scenes, is a longtime exhibitor at Fireside, and he will likely bring new works to the show, said Graham.

"Whenever he does create a new painting, he usually does show that. Many of (the artists) do sell prints as well, which are more affordable for some people, but we do require them to have the originals of their artwork," she said.

The result will be a fresh selection of traditional Appalachian crafts, but, Graham said, "we try and have some of the more modern arts and crafts as well."

"There are several (artists) that are from this area. Of course, our goal is always to highlight the Southern Appalachian mountain culture," she said, adding that many local potters will exhibit their wares along with artists that create folk art and mixed-media pieces.

Graham said many local folks from surrounding counties come out to the craft show. The park also tends to sell out the 100 rooms located in the lodge, and 30 cottages scattered throughout its 1,050 acres.

"Our goal, obviously, this time of year, is always to sell out, but last year, we had a little over 4,000 attendees, and many of them are coming up from Atlanta for just a day trip," she said.

Graham said several of the artists and craftspeople will demonstrate their crafts.

"We try and have as many as we can actually demonstrate, so that people can see the process," she said.

The park continues to showcase mountain arts and crafts throughout the year in its gift shop, which sells handmade soaps, quilts and pottery.

If you go to Fireside, you can also dine at the restaurant located in the lodge, which serves fresh trout nightly.

Unicoi also boasts a 53-acre lake, a sandy beach, 33 walk-in camp sites and 16 "Squirrel's Nest" camping shelters.

Upcoming events include Volunteer Days at Unicoi on March 12, when volunteers can come and spruce up the park to ready it for warmer days. Lunch is provided for volunteers.

On March 26, star-gazers can hear lectures and learn how to properly view the night sky on Astronomy Night at Unicoi.