A day at the fair

I had the chance to head up to Rhinebeck last week to check out the Country Living Fair, which artfully filled the Dutchess County Fairgrounds June 6-8.

And I’m so glad I did. I had missed the inaugural edition for our region, held last year. I had, though, heard great things — and the good word proved right on target.

As the press materials described, the event, designed to bring the shelter-lifestyle magazine Country Living to life, was to be “three days of cooking, crafting, DIY demonstrations, editor and design expert appearances, as well as locally-sourced, artisanal food, and a unique shopping experience featuring more than 200 vendors offering antiques, gifts, home décor, jewelry and more.”

The shows are produced by Stella Show Management Company, familiar to many as the force behind so many of the region’s great antiques shows and special events over the years.

In the five or so hours I was on site, the breadth of the event was more than clear — and the excitement was palpable. Throughout, there was a theme shared by the participants —a dedication to the handmade and to the beauty and value of vintage.

As I wandered from booth to tent to vintage Airstream trailer, I not only met amazing artists, artisans and business owners but also caught some bluegrass performances, a lecture and some demonstrations.

I enjoyed chatting with Ronni Nagel of Florida, who takes vintage fabrics (mostly bark cloth) and transforms them into the most artistic pillows and handbags. I was charmed by the delicate creations of Crystal Sloane, who with her husband, Ben, operates Vintage By Crystal near Saratoga, N.Y. She is dedicated to the “lost craft” of spun cotton, which was practiced by German artists from the late 1800s into the World War I era.

There were lovely table linens on display by Carole Shiber of Kingston; “metal lace” jewelry by Lisa Toland Collection of California; natural skin and hair products from Hudson Valley Skin Care in Pleasant Valley; and unique retro finds from Vintage Inspired Lifestyle Marketplace in Vermont, to name just a few.

And it was great catching up with Jen O’Connor, the founder and owner of Earth Angels Studios. O’Connor, who’s based in Warwick in Orange County, runs a collective of female artists who are dedicated to original, handmade creations and vintage and vintage-inspired work. Their diverse creations well reflected the spirit shared by the event and those it drew.

“It’s really just an appreciation of the artful,” O’Connor said.

And she can only see it growing. (Organizers estimate this year’s three-day attendance at about 20,000).

“I think this one, of all the Country Living fairs, has the potential to be the biggest,” adding it draws strength from the Hudson Valley’s artistic heritage.

And if you find yourself on the road later this year, you might just want to stop by the other 2014 editions of the Country Living Fair — in Ohio Village in Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 12-14; and in Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Oct. 24-26.

After all, each event provides — as Kentucky-based antiques dealer Tricia LeTempt-Gray of The Red Door Antiques said during her “Finding Gems Among Junk” talk on June 6 — something that really resonates with those seeking treasures of all kinds.

“We do it because we love it,” she said. “The joy really is in looking.”

And I know I’m already looking forward to attending another edition of the Country Living Fair.

For more on the event, visit countryliving.com or stellashows.com.

– Mary Shustack

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