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Monday, May 23, 2011

Forty years and going strong

With the upcoming 40th anniversaries for both the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair, and the Kerrville Folk Festival, I thought I'd dig through my files for a bit of history on both. Here's what I found:
My friend Rod Kennedy gave me a remarkable document a while back:  a program from the first Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair (of which the first Kerrville Folk Festival was a part).
It is remarkable for many reasons:  its words, pictures and design evoke a spirit that thrived in this place that summer of 1972. From the welcoming letters printed in the front of the book from Governor Preston Smith, Schreiner Junior College and Preparatory School President Sam Junkin, and the first Executive Director of the Arts & Crafts Fair, Phil Davis (of the Texas Tourist Development Agency),  all the way to the list of exhibitors (including my dad and an old platen printing press) – you can tell that Kerrville was on the ball, making a difference for itself in the state. It’s refreshing to read the program, filled with its optimism and state public-relations department text.
The Fair was held for 6 days, starting on a Tuesday and running through Saturday, on the campus of Schreiner Institute. Admission was $1.00 for adults and 50 cents for children. Parking was free. Rod Kennedy produced the first Kerrville Folk Festival June 1, 2, and 3 (Thursday through Saturday) at the Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, with a $2.50 per person admission. Other things were going on during the same time:  Schreiner Institute offered a production of  “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and the Hill Country Arts Foundation had a Neil Simon comedy, “Come Blow Your Horn.” 
Texas Arts & Crafts Fair, Kerrville, 1972
The program is filled with ads for the expected restaurants and hotels – but also packed with ads for real estate. I’m thinking more than a few people, once exposed to Kerr County in such a positive way, loaded up the truckster and headed on over. It’s the clever optimism of the advertisers that I find appealing when I look through the booklet:  “Hey, world, we’re putting on a show, come have fun!” the booklet says, while another voice says “and we’re going to offer you something better than you’ve got.”   Money can be made that way. Communities can be made that way.
I was 10 years old during that first fair and festival, but I remember it clearly. During the day I helped Mom and Dad at the tent where the old iron beast printing press was on display (and running, printing maps of the fair), helping man the front desk there on what was once called Medina Street by the front gate. We were the first tent inside the entrance, and we printed a ton of maps right there. I sure wish I had one of those old maps. The only real rule we had was that we could not, under any circumstances, run the press. It was an old Kluge and it would just as soon smash a child’s fingers to pulp as print. Now, I know that I shouldn’t have run the press when my parents were away from the tent – especially now that time has passed and I can see how dangerous it was. Nevertheless, more than a few of those maps were printed by child labor. I also remember it was blazing hot. Blazing. Lady Bird Johnson attended one of those early fairs, but I’m not sure if it was the first one. I gave her a map.
Kerrville Folk Festival, Kerrville, 1972
I also remember attending that first Kerrville Folk Festival, crowded into the Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, listening to performers like Peter Yarrow, Allen Damron, Kenneth Threadgill and Carolyn Hester. I’m afraid I didn’t make it through the entire show, falling fast asleep after a hard day’s printing maps (I mean handing out maps).
I’m proud of the Kerrville community for producing such dual (and diverse) shows for the world, not only in 1972, but every year since then. It says a lot about our community, both then and now.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is proud of Kerrville and her Fair and Festival.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times.
For more information about Joe's book, please click here.

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