The mountain may not have been showing her bountiful fall petticoats October 12 and 13, but Thurmont’s annual Catoctin Colorfest event was an artist’s palette of colors and hues.
I was born here in this beautiful part of the country and recently moved back home to Thurmont, so this was my first Colorfest. I had been warned by some that it was “crazy busy.” Well, I just had to see what it was all about, so with camera and notebook in hand, I set off to see for myself.
I was fortunate enough to be able to walk everywhere from my home, so no traffic problems got in my way, though the stream of never-ending vehicles on U.S. Route 15 was astounding. Walking downtown on Friday, I felt the expectancy and excitement in the air. Shopkeepers seemed ready, though some were more jaded than others in what they were ready for, but for the most part, anticipation was in the air.
Down at Thurmont’s Community Park, vendors were putting up their tents and tables, readying them with a plethora of wares that, come Saturday, would hopefully be purchased. I could only get a peek at some so I enjoyed greeting other walkers out nosing around. At the park’s entrance, I stopped and chatted with Betty Burdock and Diana Lewis who were efficiently directing vendors to their assigned spaces. They seemed old hands at this and we chatted about how great the weather looked for the weekend. When I left the park later in the afternoon, closed white tents filled with yet to be discovered goodies, sat like friendly ghosts in waiting.
Saturday proved to be the reason that Colorfest is often called an experience rather than an event. Hitting Main street, I was immediately caught up in the flow of foot traffic and while one might feel a bit out of control in this sea of humanity situation, countless strollers, dogs, and wagons, I felt part of something exciting transforming Thurmont’s everyday life. It was an energetic synthesis! And there was definitely a mission mentality emanating from those who know just how to shop.
Established in 1963, Colorfest has come a long way. What started as a nature walk has evolved into a juried arts and crafts festival featuring well-known and respected artisans from across the United States. It is one of the largest outdoor craft show events on the East Coast.
As I traversed the park, more colors blossomed as handmade candles, silk flower arrangements, Christmas ornaments, jewelry glittering in the sunlight, prism fan pulls and even a small field of Blue Heron yard art that swayed and bobbed in the breeze; there were amazingly innovative crafts, beautiful art and clothing, not to mention the delicious food options whose smells beckoned half way across the park before you even saw the booth. Everything you could ever ask for on a beautiful fall day was all there in one, compact slice of retail heaven. Crazy busy? Yes. Crazy beautiful, too!
One must be quick when interviewing someone working. Their focus is on their customers and that is as it should be, so finding a vendor freed up for a few minutes was a challenge. I lucked out when I ventured into a booth that displayed countless USB Port Lamps. Looking like little r2d2’s ready to do your bidding, this was one of the most innovative items I had seen that day. Owners, Kate and Steve Imes, were happy to answer my questions, the most pressing being, “What in the world made you think to create this?”
Why, necessity being the mother of invention, of course! Their son had gone off to college a number of years ago and called home to complain that the dorm room he shared had one outlet per side. Plugging in a lamp and one other item was less than efficient, so Steve went to work inventing his USB Port Lamp, which was selling like proverbial hotcakes in this, their 5th year at Colorfest. Kate makes the shades and they come in a variety of colors and themes. As I thanked them and left, another group entered the tent and I overheard someone ask…. “What in the world made you think to create this?”
I spoke with other vendors that day and the two overriding themes about this year’s Colorfest was the weather (perfect!) and that it was the busiest year, ever (perfect!). “It doesn’t get any better than this”, one vendor commented.
Over on the back side of the park I was intrigued to see an American Flag made from shotgun shells positioned front and center in a booth. A lovely, smiling young woman greeted me as I entered. In asking Janelle James where the idea came from, she explained that she was a military wife who loved to craft. She and her husband, Zach, create designs from shells and use their Etsy Shop to promote pride and patriotism. This was their 6th Colorfest and they love coming here.
I wrapped up my day with an order of French fries with vinegar and salt and sat on a bale of hay watching people, dogs and kids. My overall opinion of Colorfest? It was fabulous and I am going to do it again next year.
What does a military wife do when her husband is serving the country? Ready, Aim, Craft! And that is just what Janelle and Zach James named their company, a craft shop comprised of products celebrating American pride and patriotism. Their sixth year at Colorfest was a huge success!
This year, Carol and Steve Newmann, of Chapel Crafts, celebrated their 47th year at Colorfest. The Newmann’s craft leather belts continue to please new as well as repeat customers.
Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. provides three scholarships each year in the amount of $1,000 and one scholarship in the amount of $1,500, to be awarded to Catoctin area high school graduates who are continuing their education.